Designing a research project takes a lot of careful thought. Before scientists can be awarded funds to begin their project, they must design a detailed proposal explaining what they hope to learn with their study. This process begins with a scientific question and expands to include what the scientists expect to find, also known as a hypothesis.
VIDEO: RESEARCH QUESTIONS
Dr. Katrin Iken outlines the team's research questions for the sea ice project. (1:45)
Scientists hypothesize that the algae that grows on sea ice is an important food source for primary consumers living in the pelagic and benthic zones. They are concerned that, as ice conditions change as result of changing climate, it will affect the species that rely on this ice algae. The problem is, little data had been collected in the past, so not much was known about how much ice algae grows in the Bering Sea in spring or which species of animals were eating it. During the spring of 2008, 2009 and 2010, Dr. Gradinger and his colleagues completed field work in the eastern Bering Sea in an effort to answer these questions with financial support from the National Science Foundation (award 0732767).
In order to test their hypotheses, Dr. Iken and the other scientists had to develop a plan. How would they get to the Bering Sea? What tools would they use to sample and study the ice and the ice algae? How would they discover which species were dependent on sea ice and how the food web fit together? All of these challenges had to be carefully considered before the team even traveled to the field. After all, once you’re out in the middle of the Bering Sea, there’s no going back for something you forgot!
WHO IS STUDYING SEA ICE?