CSI Professor Probes the Depths of Research

David Lindo-Atichati in front of the NOAA Research Vessel Nancy Foster.

More than 1,333 miles away and almost 3,000 meters of ocean depths, that’s how far College of Staten Island (CSI) Professor David Lindo-Atichati’s research took him this summer. An Assistant Professor at CSI as well as at The Graduate Center of The City University of New York (CUNY), Lindo-Atichati traveled to Cuba for a two- week research expedition in the front of the Caribbean current.

Funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Lindo-Atichati was joined by 11 other invited scientists from all over the world to study the physics of the sea, specifically ocean eddies, rotating bodies of water that make up the weather of the sea. With a wealth of data and discoveries uncovered about the formation of eddies and their impact on connectivity of water masses and ecosystems between Cuban and the U.S. waters, the bold researcher is “very excited to be leading this little piece of scientific work.”

“To better understand the physics of the water highways, you need to understand what is occurring where the water stream is originated,” said Lindo-Atichati, explaining that eddies are invisible islands of water with diameters ranging from one to a few hundred kilometers, bringing together and mixing ocean life while swirling like a hurricane. “Also, large eddies play a role in the formation of the ocean-atmosphere boundary layer and especially in the intensification of hurricanes.” The high-resolution data obtained from this cruise will allow Lindo-Atichati to look at the evolution of unexplored ocean eddies south of Cuba. Likewise, this work will provide better understanding on the formation of eddies in regions with a high tropical cyclone activity. Thus, this study can eventually help us to better predict the intensification of hurricanes and superstorms like Sandy.

The seafaring crew departed from Cozumel, Mexico on May 21, stopping at “stations” in the Mexican, Cuban, and Jamaican waters to take water samples, measuring the velocity and temperature of the water as well as the physical and biological properties, such as the species of fish in the area. He and his colleagues worked around the clock in rotating 12-hour shifts studying entire “water columns” from the ocean’s surface to 3,000 meters below the surface. After several hours at one station, they would proceed to the next one. After the expedition, Lindo-Atichati gave a seminar at Universidad de la Habana and met Cuban scientists and students.
“My research, in conjunction with an international network of collaborators, grapples with questions at the frontiers of physics, biology, and chemistry in the oceanic systems. I approach these questions from a multidimensional perspective that includes theory, observation, and modeling. By weaving these three approaches together, my research program is specifically designed to understand the interactions between oceanic circulation, marine ecosystems, and marine pollutants at very fine scales,” he noted.

David Lindo-Atichati shooting an XBT off the stern to obtain high resolution data of sea temperature and depth.

Dr. Neo Antoniades, Chair of the Engineering Science and Physics Department, expressed his support for his colleague, noting that, “David is a bright rising star in our department with a most impressive research portfolio in the exciting field of oceanography.”

Lindo-Atichati, who is also a guest investigator at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and a physical oceanographer, and his fellow scientists contributed much of their own resources to help fund the delicate instruments necessary for the expedition, which cost approximately $15,000 per day, including food, crew, scientists, and gas.

A native of Barcelona, Spain, who arrived in the U.S. ten years ago, Lindo-Atichati is excited that the project brings together not just fields of science, but also different countries. “This will be an interdisciplinary and an international long-term project, combining physics and biology, and also showing the connectivity between Cuba and the U.S.,” said Lindo-Atichati who also hopes the project “will bring some good attention to CUNY’s new lines of research and education.”

Although research is his primary focus, Lindo-Atichati says he is eager to return to CUNY in the fall when he will be teaching two brand new courses: a graduate course called Physical Oceanography, and a new undergraduate course in Meteorology and Climatology.

“I love conveying to students my own excitement about the importance of the ocean in our daily lives, and I relish awakening their curiosity on the interdependence of the physical, chemical, and biological systems in the ocean,” commented Lindo-Atichati, a St. George resident, who received his degrees from the University of Miami and the University of the Canary Islands, Spain.

Together with his colleagues from NOAA and the University of Miami, Lindo-Atichati is working on publishing his findings. His “groundbreaking” discoveries will be submitted to a high-impact peer-reviewed journal as he continues to write grants through the National Science Foundation to continue to fund the research.