Antarctica

Oceanography professor Alejandro Orsi is leading an international team of scientists, two of which are current A&M students.

For 40 days starting Wednesday, Orsi will be leading the I6S Global Ocean Ship-based Hydrographic Investigation Program (GO-SHIP) in the southwestern portion of the Indian Ocean to test water samples in order to analyze climate change in the past decade.

The researchers will be testing the seawater for a range of things, including heat content and how much carbon has been absorbed by the ocean. Seeing how much more carbon has been sequestered by the ocean in the past decade is a direct sign of how much carbon has been released into the atmosphere, Orsi said. With this new information, researchers can look to the ocean to see how the Earth’s atmosphere is changing.

“The goal of this proposal, this program, is to understand how the ocean is changing,” Orsi said. “How, meaning what mechanisms, what interactions with the atmosphere and the ice and the ocean floor. Where are those relevant processes that pass one thing from one system to another, because understanding that will allow [us to] then to plug in those parameters in the American models and see how the whole earth will evolve in the future given certain observations like the ones we are observing now.”

Of the 27 researchers aboard, there are only six students, two of whom are studying at Texas A&M — ocean engineering senior Loicka Baille and oceanography graduate student Garrett Walsh.

During the trip, Baille will focus on Conductivity-Temperature-Depth (CTD) instrument analysis using samples of seawater. Baille said being one of only six students selected out of a huge pool of applicants, is a major opportunity, especially as an undergraduate.

“It’s a huge honor,” Baille said. “I know it was very selective, I know they had wonderful candidates applying, and I am really appreciative of my professor for choosing me. It’s a big step. The people I will be working with have so much more knowledge than I do, and I’m just eager to be in this great team and learn as much as I can.”

Orsi’s research is acquiring international attention because it is helping to predict future climate change around the world. According to associate professor of oceanography Achim Stössel, having an A&M professor leading such an important and selective research team credits both A&M and the oceanography department as leaders in research.

“We have these multi-institutional expeditions at this time, so of course it’s nice to have one of our professors being the chief scientist on this particular cruise,” Stössel said. “[This] enhances our visibility in a national and international collaboration, so that’s the main thing.”

For Orsi, being a part of this team also means he can pass on the knowledge he has acquired over his lifetime of research to a new generation of oceanographers.

“I feel like I am not alone; like I have a reputation to maintain,” Orsi said. “I hope that we can pass that on to the next generation. I would really like to retire knowing there is somebody, or multiple people, doing what I love to do in the Antarctic.”

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