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A Fellow Mariner Supports Two Landmark Expeditions

As a boater, Steven Grossman of The Grossman Family Foundation was familiar with the work of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He’d read about it in national newspapers and magazines. He’d taken his own ship to the North Atlantic and the Northwest Passage, experiencing the remote beauty of the Arctic firsthand. However, it was a gift of Oceanus magazine from friends and science supporters James and Elizabeth Pickman that really captured Grossman’s imagination.

“I was intrigued by everything I read,” he explained. “I knew this work was something I could support.”

In 2011, The Grossman Family Foundation pledged more than $660,000 to fund two expeditions in 2012: Senior Scientists Robert Pickart and Andrey Proshutinsky’s deployment of the first moorings north of the Fram Strait in the eastern Arctic to measure the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation; and an observation of how beaked whales off Baja California raise their young, to be conducted by Scientist Emeritus Peter Tyack and Research Specialist Alex Bocconcelli.

“This study, a collaboration between the U.S. and Norway, will increase our understanding of the role of warm Atlantic water in regulating the Arctic system and ultimately the ramifications of a warming climate, including the melting of the Arctic ice pack,” Pickart said. “We are so grateful for support from The Grossman Family Foundation, especially because Steven understands just how fragile and important this part of the world is.”

Pickart’s group has designed the WHOI moorings necessary for this study, and is now fabricating them. When he sets out for the Arctic in September, he expects to accomplish a number of firsts for Arctic Ocean research, including:

  • Quantification of how much warm Atlantic water enters the high Arctic via the Fram Strait.
  • Determination of the processes that lead to cross-stream exchange of mass, heat and salt.
  • Creation of a simplified, cost-effective long-term monitoring system for the Atlantic water boundary current, which would act as a legacy of the Grossman Foundation gift.

In the Pacific, Tyack and Bocconcelli also are embarking on firsts of their own. They believe that, unlike much of the animal kingdom, male Baird’s beaked whales are largely responsible for care of their young. Because beaked whales live in deep water and dive so long, they are hard to observe, and thus there are no studies on the social behavior and communication of this species.

So the pair has developed a tag that can record behavior of deep-diving toothed whales throughout their dives.

“This is a very unique opportunity to collect results that should help uncover an unusual case of paternal care in a poorly known whale,” Bocconcelli said, “The Grossman gift advances our work exponentially.”