A Postcard From: Ankitha Kannad ’19

Name: Ankitha Kannad
Class Year: 2019
Major: Physics, Geology
Hometown: Bangalore, India

 Internship Placement: Applied Ocean Physics and Engineering Department, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute
Job Title: Research Assistant
Location: Woods Hole, Mass.

What’s happening at your internship? We would love to hear what kind of work you are doing!

This summer, I am working with Dr. Gordon Zhang on the Polynyas in Coastal Antarctica (PICA) project. Polynyas are openings in the sea ice surrounding Antarctica that are formed by the action of strong winds from the land that push ice away from the coast and expose ocean water. Since they remain ice free throughout the year, polynyas are particularly productive regions for phytoplankton that like plants on land require sunlight to grow. Where there is abundant phytoplankton, other organisms follow. Hence, polynyas are also particularly important for the survival of many Antarctic species like the Emperor penguin.

There is a lot of variation in the ocean dynamics and the abundance of phytoplankton in different coastal polynyas around Antarctica. Dr. Zhang has some hypotheses to explain this variability and I spent the summer analyzing data of ocean conditions in several polynyas to see if my findings agree with them.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I have been interested in physics research that also has applications for another passion of mine, which is protecting natural environments and wildlife. I’m happy I could contribute in some part to understanding the Antarctic ecosystem better through the PICA project.

What has been your favorite part of this internship?

A lot of great research happens at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. We often have several seminars and lectures every week by researchers studying everything from microbes living within the oceanic crust to origami microscopes. While my research itself has exposed me to a completely new field, it has also been exciting to learn about all the cool science happening today.

Living in a new city? What has that experience been like for you?

This summer has been full of new experiences for me, from going sailing for the first time to seeing bioluminescence in the beach closest to my home. Even though Woods Hole is a small town, there always seems to be something to explore and I’ve been lucky to have a great group of other summer students to do it with.

Map of Amundsen Sea