DOE Pulse

Berkeley Lab’s Bishop builds oceangoing robots

Oceanographer Jim Bishop

Oceanographer Jim Bishop

Using data that deep-diving Carbon Explorer floats collected for over a year, oceanographer Jim Bishop of the Earth Sciences Division at DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory assessed the fate of carbon particles from plankton blooms in the Southern Ocean. The results were counterinutitive.

“What counts is the carbon that reaches the deep sea, and a lot of the carbon tied up in plankton blooms appears not to sink very fast or very far,” Bishop says. It’s the latest surprise in his ongoing search to understand the ocean carbon cycle with instruments of his own devising, such as autonomous Carbon Explorers.

Now a U.S. citizen, Bishop grew up in Canada, where his father was an engineer in the Canadian Army. "I thought I was predestined to be an engineer," says Bishop, but after a summer spent roaming the fiords of British Columbia in a Department of Fisheries boat, with orders to "pick up one of every living thing you see," he fell in love with chemistry and oceanography both.

On a cruise to the Galapagos Islands doing graduate work at the MIT/Woods Hole Joint Program in Oceanography, he helped his advisor, John Edmond, uncover clues that led to the discovery of life around undersea hydrothermal vents. Bishop learned that “you almost never find what you expect at sea; we're continually confronted with exciting new mysteries.”

At Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory and NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Bishop used satellite pictures to study ocean photosynthesis. After a stint as professor of ocean sciences at the University of Victoria, in 1998 Bishop joined Berkeley Lab and UC Berkeley, where he is a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Science.

"Berkeley Lab has such capabilities: in designing and building new instruments, in attracting bright, dedicated students . . . I can't imagine a better place for instrumental oceanography."

Submitted by DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory