Climate Change

As the Great American IV speeds along the South Atlantic, the ocean will look much the same to Rich as it did during his race in 2008. But if you... read more

Q&A

Each expert will answer questions during the race. Click here to submit... read more

Dr. Jan Witting

Prof. Jan Witting

Oceanography
Sea Education Association

“It all started in a dinghy. I grew up on a big lake system in Finland and spent most of my summers sailing around in small boats. Once on the water, I was captivated by the mystery of what was going on beneath the surface. Are we sailing over a school of fish? What are they eating? Why is it that the water changes color in the spring and the autumn? What does the bottom look like, and what animals live there? Such questions were always with me on the boat, so when it came time to think about school, it was clear what I wanted to study.

“By graduate school at Northeastern University, I’d narrowed my focus to corals. I traveled to Jamaica and Australia to scuba dive and conduct my research on the reefs. But I still loved sailing, and the bigger and deeper the waters under the keel, the more curious I grew about the ocean ecosystem, the plankton, the algae, the fish, and the ocean currents.

“For the past 15 years, I’ve been lucky enough to pursue these questions and combine sailing and science on board Sea Education Association’s sailing research ships. With a group of undergraduate college students, we sample the ocean as we sail from places like Hawaii, Tahiti, New Zealand, Fiji, and Samoa in six-week stretches across the equatorial Pacific. My questions haven’t changed much over the years, but they’ve become more focused. Why do some particular kinds of fish or zooplankton live in the equatorial ocean, near a particular current? Why are they around in such different numbers from one year to the next, and what changes in their world? On every trip there are surprises, and ocean has always something new to teach me.”