Ruth Rosenthal, 2015, Chemical and Biological Engineering

This summer, I worked in Princeton’s Program in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences (AOS) researching long-term trends in ocean chlorophyll data and differing methodologies for examining such trends. Chlorophyll data provides the best tool for scientists to estimate the concentration of phytoplankton in a given area of the ocean. Since phytoplankton form the basis of ocean food webs, it is important to see if their numbers are changing over time, especially since they may be affected by climate change. I utilized chlorophyll data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s National Oceanographic Data Center (NODC) and Johns Hopkins University’s Worldwide Ocean Optics Database (WOOD), ranging over 50- and 100-year time spans, to discern long-term trends in chlorophyll concentration. I also examined the reliability of chlorophyll measurements derived from Secchi depths against more precise in situ fluorometer measurements. I did the majority of my computational and mapping analysis in MATLAB, which allowed me to quickly analyze enormous data sets over long time scales and to easily map spatial trends. This research really stimulated my interest in applying my foundational science skills to specific oceanographic or environmental problems, and also showed me how useful computational tools such as MATLAB can be in scientific research.