August 21, 2015 1:53 pm
Updated: August 21, 2015 6:05 pm

Scientists hope to reconstruct past climates, dating back 10,000 years

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WATCH ABOVE: The Maria S. Merian, one of the world’s leading research vessels for marine science, is in Halifax. Global’s Natasha Pace has more on the ship, its research and its connection to Halifax.

Halifax — The Maria S. Merian, Germany’s second most modern research vessel, is currently docked in Halifax. The ship and her crew are working to reconstruct past climates, dating back 10,000 years.

“We are collecting samples to be able to see how climate varied before mankind interfered with it,” said Markus Kienest, a professor of oceanography at Dalhousie University.

The idea is by collecting sediment samples from the ocean floor, scientists can see how the Labrador Sea has changed.

Markus Kienest (R), a professor of oceanography at Dalhousie University and Ralph Schneider (L), chief scientist aboard the Maria S. Merian, look at sediment samples.

Natasha Pace/Global News

“In a way, it helps us to better decide what we see,” said Ralph Schneider, chief scientist aboard the vessel. “Whether its in the natural system or whether it’s something beyond that, so is mankind now a climate driver or not”

The ship the crew is working off is one of the most modern research vessels available. The Merian can operate without any polluting emissions for 48 hours. This allows it to conduct research in ecologically-sensitive areas. The vessel is also capable of operating in near-polar regions and can handle thick drift ice.

A crew member works on a mapping system aboard the Maria S. Merian.

Natasha Pace/Global News

Among the technology the Merian has is a computerized system that holds the boat in position while researchers collect samples. It’s something that makes their work much easier.

“The ship is not moving, so it’s not driven away by winds or by waves or by currents,” said Schneider. “It holds the position navigated by satellite fixing and then you can be sure what you identify on the sea floor, you can get with the gears and that is the most important thing for us to find these tiny spots”.

Stefanie Mellon was one of two Dalhousie University students who spent 21 days on the Labrador Sea. Her job was to collect water samples.

Stefanie Mellon and her professor Markus Kienast drawing deep sea water samples from a CTD (Conductivity-Temperature-Depth) water sampling rosette.

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“I really wanted to do it because I study oceanography at Dal and this is kind of the capstone to the degree I did, to get to experience the field work,” she said. “It was really nice to be out at sea every single day — very relaxing and cool to see icebergs and northern lights. It was a really neat experience and I’m very happy I was able to do it.”

Mellon’s professor says the opportunity to have students participate in collecting samples for the research is out of the ordinary.

“Oceanography is dependent on field work. You can’t do oceanography in a lab only,” Kienest said. “For them, it’s a unique opportunity to see how samples are taken and what the ocean is like out there for three weeks at a time or longer.”

The Maria S. Merian will be docked in Halifax until next week.

Natasha Pace/Global News

The vessel will stay in Halifax for the weekend and then head back out with a new crew to collect more samples.

It’s open for the public to view and meet the scientists on Saturday, August 22 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., at Pier 24.

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