URI student circles Iceland to study newly discovered currents

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NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – October 24, 2011 – When Stefanie Zamorski was looking for an opportunity to spend time aboard a research ship to meet the requirements of her master’s degree at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography, she said she wanted “the full experience.”

“I didn’t want a short cruise in local waters,” she explained. “I wanted to experience a month-long cruise and go somewhere foreign.”

She got her wish. The Charlottesville, Va., resident recently returned from a 30-day cruise through Arctic waters aboard the R/V Knorr to study the North Icelandic Jet, a newly-discovered current that carries cold water from the Arctic through the Denmark Strait between Iceland and Greenland.

“The Jet plays an important role in ocean circulation, which can affect climate,” Zamorski said. “Warm water travels north toward the pole, then mixes with cold water and sinks and is transported back south through the Strait.”

Zamorski worked in 12-hour shifts throughout the trip, repeatedly deploying a large oceanographic device that records the conductivity, temperature, depth and oxygen content of the water. She also operated an acoustic Doppler current profiler, which measures the velocity of the current.

“I really liked the whole experience,” she said. “I formed friendships with those onboard, we all got along well, meals were cooked for us, and I got to go to unique places that I’ll probably never go again.”

Zamorski said that her favorite part of the trip was a visit to the Faroe Islands, located between Iceland and Norway, where the beautiful landscapes included sheer cliffs, waterfalls and giant rock pillars sticking up from the water. She also enjoyed seeing large numbers of whales, seals and seabirds.

While the trip provided the URI student with great experience and satisfied a requirement in her degree program, it was only minimally related to the research she is conducting for her thesis. That research involves a study of the Kuroshio Current, which carries warm water northward from the west side of the North Pacific Ocean, somewhat like the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic.

Zamorski grew up with a passion for meteorology, and earned a bachelor’s degree in that discipline from Pennsylvania State University in 2008 before coming to URI.

“My grandfather was a meteorologist for the Air Force, so I was probably tuned in to that more than other people,” she said. “And there were a lot of thunderstorms in the area where I grew up, which I really liked. Oceanography was my favorite class in school, so that’s how I ended up at URI.”

While Zamorski has no firm career plans, she enjoys conducting research and hopes that will be a part of whatever job she eventually lands.

“I’m open to whatever opportunities come my way,” she said.