Sunday, December 19, 2010
1 - What's the range of temperature outside? What is the coldest temperature you have recorded?
Karen: I have not been measuring outside temperature myself, but it seems as though the air temperature is ranging from around 40 degrees Fahrenheit on a really sunny day to around 15-20 degrees Fahrenheit on a cold evening.
2 - Are there polar bears? Are they friendly?
Karen: There are no polar bears in Antarctica; they only live in the arctic (where the North Pole is). There, they are known to hunt people and are not friendly.
3 - Is day to day living hard over here?
Karen: Day to day living is not hard. Our research vessel is very comfortable. We work very hard, though. Long hours of work with little sleep are the hardest things about day to day life.
4 - How do they grow vegetables/vegetation?
Karen: On the ship, we bring all of our fresh vegetables with us. The ship also delivers fresh produce to Palmer Station. At McMurdo Research Station, they have a green house and can grow some of their own vegetables.
5 - How long are the days/nights during the different seasons?
Karen: Right now, in the summer, daylight lasts almost all day. In fact, it never gets dark. Between around 11:00pm and 2:00am it looks like dusk outside. By 3:00am the sun is already above the horizon! The opposite is true in the winter (our summer, June-September)
6 - What is the favorite part of your work?
Melissa: My favorite part of work out here is trying to guess what we’re going to get in the cod end and then finally looking at what we got. Sometimes we get something really interesting and/or weird like polychaete worms or fish larvae. It’s also pretty cool when we get a long salp chain although it can be frustrating to try not to break it apart when we move the sample around.
Karen: My favorite part of this work that we are doing is getting to open up the cod end (the strainer at the end of the net where our zooplankton samples are collected as we tow our sampling net) after a tow and see what neat creatures we have caught.
7 - Can you play soccer outside? If yes, do the penguins play too?
Katie: I love soccer and would love to play with the penguins!!! I've seen them playing in Coca Cola commercials. I've yet to find a soccer ball laying around the ship, but if I do, maybe I'll try it.
Joe: On my last cruise, we had a soccer game in a big room on the ship where they sometimes store a helicopter. However, the ship we're on right now doesn't have a room like that. And it's dangerous to play soccer on the deck because if the ball goes over the side, you can't get it back!
8 - How long does it take to travel to Antarctica from North America?
Katie: A long time! It took me about 27 hour total to fly to Punta Arenas, Chile and then a 4 to 5 day boat ride to Antarctica!
9 - Does it rain in Antarctica or does it just snow?
Katie: Where we are, near the Antarctica Peninsula, it is possible for it to rain if it is warm enough (above thirty two degrees F). Most days it is not that warm, so it snows. Today is an exception though - its almost forty degrees and sunny!
10 - What modes of transportation do you use on Antarctica?
Katie: All transportation to and from Antarctica is by ship or plane. Once you get to the continent, there are trucks, snowmobiles, and more!
11 - Does Antarctica look the same 20 years ago as it does today? Is it affected by global warming? Is global warming real or fake? Will everything melt one day?
Joe: I've been coming down to Antarctica for only the past 10 years but I work with people who have worked here for more than 30 years studying animals and their habitat. There are definitely changes occurring on the continent here even though we are relatively isolated from the rest of the people on earth. The peninsula (the part of the continent that reaches up towards South Amera) is getting warmer at a rate much faster than the rest of the planet and scientists have started to observe changes in where they find certain penguin species which may be the result in climate change affecting their habitat or where they may find their preferred food (like krill). Climate change is real -- but depending on where you are on the planet, the effects may be mild or strong. I don't think everything will melt one day, however we may see changes in what areas of our planet are habitable for people (just like we're seeing changes in the penguins down here).
12 - What kind of food do you eat when you are there?
Katie: The food on the ship is delicious! I eat pretty much what I would if I were at home, but more cookies! The cookies are very tasty. Our trip is relatively short, so we still have some supplies of fresh fruits and vegetables, but this is not the case for all trips.
13. What language do you speak in Antarctica?
Melissa: Mostly we speak English, but occasionally we like to rattle off a little penguin or whale.
Joe: However, if you visit another country's research station, they speak their native language so you could hear spanish, chinese, korean, russian, polish, or several other dialects.
14. How much bigger is Antarctica than Texas?
Melissa: It’s way bigger (and way cooler) than Texas.
Joe: Melissa used to live in Texas. Joe and this blog takes no official stance on which location is cooler. The size of Antarctica depends on what season you are here as there is a lot of ice that freezes around the continent. It's around 5.4 million square miles in area. I don't know the size of Texas, but I'm guessing you could fit ~ 20 Texas(es) in Antarctica -- maybe your class can calculate how many and see how close my guess is ? We also have several people from Alaska on our ship and they would like to point out that Alaska is 600,000 square miles or roughly twice as large as Texas.
15. What kind of penguins are found there?
Melissa: While I’ve been down here I’ve seen mostly chinstraps but I’ve also seen a few Adelie’s and gentoo’s. While we were out on a small boat trip we even saw an emperor penguin, although they aren’t common in the islands where we’ve been. Mostly, the emperor penguins live down on the continent but they will move north to molt their feathers.
16. Do you shower even if it is freezing?
Melissa: Well, luckily the ship has a water heater so we don’t have to take freezing showers. The real issue with showering happens when the ship is rocking back and forth. It’s easy to get seasick in an enclosed space and it can be difficult to hold on to the hand rail and wash/dry at the same time.
17. Is there a big community of people over there? What do you use to get around?
Melissa: There are a lot of people out here, actually. A bunch of countries have their own stations in Antarctica that are like their own small communities and there are constantly people there working and maintaining them. The stations have vehicles for moving around in some areas on land but you can also take a zodiac, which is a small boat, to travel to other islands and explore on foot.
18. What kind of noises do penguins make?
Melissa: It’s kind of like a nasal squawk. Almost like a crow with a deep voice.
Joe: Sometimes when they are on land, the penguins will "trumpet" which sounds like (you guessed it) a trumpet.
3. Why study zooplankton?
Zooplankton are a really important part of the marine ecosystem and the type and quantity of zooplankton that you find in an area can be very indicative of the condition of the local ecosystem. For instance, salps and krill are two dominant types of zooplankton in the Antarctic. Both are common but typically are not found in high abundances in the same location. Krill tend to be more associated with the presence of sea ice, likely because that is what their primary food source is associated with, whereas salps tend to be associated more with open water. Because salps are not predated upon by many other organisms, they are often considered to be the end of the food chain and are not associated with very diverse systems. Krill, on the other hand, are consumed by a vast number of organisms which are in turn consumed by other organisms and are considered to be a key component to marine food webs. They are the primary food source for baleen whales like humpbacks which swim from the tropics in winter to the Antarctic in Austral summer to feed in the highly productive waters. Fish, penguins, and other marine birds also feed on krill and they in turn are fed upon by toothed whales and seals. In recent years salps have been found to be increasing in abundance and krill to be decreasing. With increasing global temperatures, sea ice is on the decline, correlating with a decrease in krill abundance. Because krill are so vital a part of marine food webs, this indicates that there may be a danger of collapse for Southern Ocean food webs which would have serious implications worldwide.
4. What was the most amazing discovery that you have come across while conducting your research?
I can’t say that there is any one thing that I have come across that I find particularly amazing but the experience as a whole has been pretty amazing in itself – learning just how useful acoustics can be in determining what is in the water column, seeing the diverse array of zooplankton species that we catch in the net tows, and seeing how the physical properties of the water in any one area correspond to the types and number of organisms that we find there. I’ve learned about most of it in my classes but it’s entirely different and there is a far greater sense of self fulfillment when you see it all in person and do the science with your own hands rather than just reading about it in a textbook or a paper published in a science journal.
9. Have you seen any penguins or other animals on the cruise?
Yes, we’ve seen plenty of animals on the cruise. We see penguins practically every day. So far we’ve seen all of the common species for the area like chinstraps, gentoos, and Adelies and we’ve spotted one or two emperor penguins which are rare in the islands and generally only come here to molt. We’ve also spotted a few seals – leopard seals and crabeaters – and we occasionally spy humpack whales, minke whales, and orcas. Or course since we’re studying zooplankton we also see plenty of amphipods, krill, salps, pteropods, and other animals when we pull in the net tows.
Today we sampled at our last few stations of this cruise. The early morning hours were graced with warm strong sun and a cloudless sky. The last several days have been, for the most part, absolutely beautiful.
While standing on the 01 deck at around 3 AM this morning, admiring the mountain ridges that plummet from around 4000 feet directly into the sea, a massive very healthy-looking humpback whale fluked and dove next to the ship. While continuing to collect data, measure the gravity of krill, salps and chaetognaths, and enter data, it is impossible to ignore the grandeur of the sea and landscape here. It is also stunning how quickly the seas can change. In a blink the wind came up this afternoon and the sky clouded over. The winds went from a light 5 knots to a sustained 25 to 30 knots. We are on our way to make the last stops at Palmer Station and a field camp fondly called Copacabana, before crossing back over the Drake Passage to Punta Arenas. While it seems that we are all excited to be getting home, it is a little sad that the cruise’s end is drawing near.
We’re on our way to our final station before returning to Palmer now so I thought it would be a good time to give a long overdue tour of the Gould!
We’ll start from the top and work our way down. At the very pinnacle of the ship is the bridge where dwell our charming navigators and the captain. Descending the stairs one will first find themselves on the second floor, made up entirely of bedrooms. On the first floor can be found more bedrooms and offices, including those of our chief scientist, Joe Warren, and our Marine Projects Coordinator, Herb Baker. Both offices have dry erase boards outside where announcements and general information are posted.
|The white board outside Joe's office.|
The lounge is also on the first floor. There you will find the most comfortable pieces of furniture on the ship, a big screen TV, a large collection of movies, and Rock Band setup.
|Welcome to the lounge.|
The next floor down, I’m not sure of the technical name of so I’ll just call it the ground floor. Here you’ll find the galley, always stocked with plenty of food…
…as well as the laundry room, office supply room (the China Closet), and down the hall you’ll find the baltic room, home of the CTD, the E lab, the dry lab, and the wet lab where we do most of our work.
|The E lab, home of the|
From the baltic room or the wet lab you can exit onto the back deck where you’ll find the zodiacs and the MT shop, home to our three marine techs Mark, Chance, and Meriedi. The next door down from the shop is the aquarium room where we keep our live animals caught in the net tows. The back can be a scary place to be in bad weather and rough seas. Large waves crash over the side and could easily drag a person overboard, so always wear a float coat when you’re out there!
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Part of our work on this cruise is to find material properties of salps and krill. These material properties include, among other things, the densities of such organisms. Density is important to know if you want to differentiate organisms from one another in acoustic scatter data. We are using different techniques to find the density of krill and the density of salps. Both rely on the principle that when an animal is placed into a liquid that is less dense than it, the animal will sink. When the animal is in liquid denser than it, the animal will float at the surface. Finally, if the animal is placed in liquid that is the same density as it, the animals will (you guessed it) become neutrally buoyant and float!
To find the density of salps, we start with a known amount of seawater, in which salps are negatively buoyant, or sink. We then add hyper-saline solution (i.e. saltier and therefore denser than seawater) very slowly using a burette, a long glass tube with increments of volume marked. This process of adding one substance slowly in measured increments is called titration. As soon as the salp starts to lift off the bottom of the container and become neutrally buoyant, you know that the density of the solution in the container is the same as the density of the salp. Using volume and salinity of the ending solution in the container with the salp, you can calculate density!
Krill are generally denser than salps, so mixtures of glycerin are used instead of seawater and hyper-saline solution. A glycerin solution of known density is prepared and placed into a beaker or graduated cylinder. A krill is placed into solutions, one by one in order from least dense solution to more dense. We note in which solution the krill becomes neutrally or positively buoyant, and can therefore approximate the density of the animal based upon which solution made it float rather than sink (i.e. was the same or of greater density).
Size of the organism and temperature of all the different solutions used are important to both methods. Therefore, we measure both and record all of the data.
Using the refined densities of salps and krill, or G-values as they are called in acoustics, scientists like Joe can refine their interpretation of acoustic data to be more specific as to which organisms they are seeing in their acoustic data.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
1) While being in Antarctica can you see the effects of global warming occurring? Do you think it will get better or worse in the years to come?
This is my first trip to Antarctica, so I have nothing with which to compare what I see here now. However, I asked our Marine Projects Coordinator, Herb, who told me that he has been visiting and living on Antarctica for “longer than you [I] have been alive.” This means that Herb has seen the Antarctic continent regularly for at least the past 27 years. There is a glacial behind Palmer Station that you can hike up. Herb has noticed that in recent years you have to walk a lot longer on rock to start your hike up the glacier. In many parts of Antarctica, glaciers and ice are receding. It is safe to say that temperatures here are getting warmer, causing all this ice to melt more than in the recent past. [Joe: Studies have shown that the Antarctic peninsula region (where we are) is warming at a much more rapid rate than the global average. But, making things even more complicated, some studies have shown that the interior of Antarctica is actually getting cooler. This can often lead to confusion if somebody says "Antarctica is warming" as most studies that have found trends or significant changes are looking at a sub-area and not the entire continent.]
Regarding whether this will “get better or worse” in years to come, it is important to realize that environmental change like warming temperatures in the Antarctic is not a question of better or worse. Environmental change can be beneficial to some organisms, while detrimental to others. Some creatures and ecosystems show more resilience than others, being affected more or less depending on the level and rate of change. It does seem that this warming trend is continuing, but the mechanisms behind such change are complex and related to processes all over the globe. Therefore, it is difficult to say with certainty whether it will continue at all, continue at the same rate, or continue at a steeper rate.
4) What was the most amazing discovery that you have come across while conducting your research?
While I have not discovered anything new to mankind, I have discovered things that were new to me. While working on zooplankton and right whales off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, I have come to appreciate the magnitude to which right whale food (copepods) controls the behavior and distribution of these animals. It appears that using information just about zooplankton and certain other environmental variables, one can actually predict the presence or absence of right whales, as well as their behavior, with statistically significant positive results. To me, the strength of this relationship between right whales and their feeding habitat is quite amazing. [Joe: My last research trip here in May and June of this year was examining the very same process Karen was describing except instead of copepods and right whales, we were looking at krill and humpback whales.]
8) What is there to gain from studying life forms such as zooplankton in this region? Could depletion of animals in the Antarctic impact communities in other bodies of water?
There are many things we can learn about the Antarctic marine ecosystem, and other ecosystems around the world, by studying zooplankton here. Secondary production [the growth of animals that eat primary producers or plants] not only provides an integral part of the marine food web foundation, but is also important to nutrient cycling and carbon flux. Salps, for example, produce fecal matter that contains carbon, and sinks to the seafloor after being excreted. This is a type of carbon sink, which removes CO2 from the air (in the form of photosynthesis in phytoplankton) and moves it to the seafloor. Studying changes in zooplankton production here, and the mechanisms behind that change, can give us insights into how widespread certain phenomena are in the world’s oceans. Comparative studies are becoming increasingly important as we discover more ways in which Earth’s ocean waters and atmosphere are connected.
Depletion of animals in the Antarctic can impact communities in other bodies of water on in a number of ways. As mentioned above, the importance of zooplankton production to remove carbon from the upper ocean directly relates to the amount of carbon in the atmosphere; the whole world is affected by the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Also, many large whales travel from other parts of the world to the Antarctic to feed in the summertime. Humpback whales that winter in the South Pacific, for example, feed on krill here. A decrease in krill here would lead to a decrease in food availability for certain humpback populations, and therefore their overall success (calving, longevity, health, etc).
- Karen ([and Joe])
Friday, December 10, 2010
After two days of waiting for the wind to die down, we were finally able to do some near-shore acoustic surveying from a zodiac. While here in Antarctica, one of our primary goals is to use acoustics to look at zooplankton in the water column. Acoustics are used in tandem with net tows so that we can survey a wider area more quickly, allowing us to cover more sea over all. The net tows offer a source of ground-truth for what we see in the acoustic data. Acoustic data are returned to us from the instruments in the form of scatter, the strength and quality of which can indicate different things about the creatures in the water column. We are able to do acoustic surveys from our ship, the L.M. Gould, using a towfish, a winged craft that is dragged alongside and behind the boat. The towfish is fitted with the acoustics instrumentation. If we want to survey in close to land, however, we must use a boat that can go in shallower water, such as a zodiac.
Once in the zodiac, it was interesting to look back at the L.M. Gould, our floating home, from a distance. What a refreshing point of view! While getting our acoustic equipment warmed up, we were pushed away from the ship by the waves, which were only small enough to conduct our work in a narrow cone protected by the land nearby.
We worked our way back and forth between the shore and the ship, completing track lines and collecting data. Our equipment worked with few glitches and we confirmed what previous net tows had suggested: there was not much in the way of zooplankton in the water column.
While we did not see so much as a few krill scattering sound on the echosounder, we did see gentoo and chinstrap penguins, elephant and fur seals, and some powerful katabatic winds blowing over a glacier, scouring the snow right around the side of a mountain.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
A Grand Salp Adventure by Mereidi Liebner
There once was a Salp named Sylvester.
He lived in the sea with his girlfriend ester.
He thought she was boring, and went out exploring
And soon found that he did not need her.
He swam eating and growing,
He made babies behind, unknowing.
That fate would soon twist,
Carbon making desist,
And all that he knew would stop flowing.
A noise, and a swish surrounded,
He never was, nor not quite ever grounded,
Enough to foresee this new theme in the sea
Studies that more have astounded!
So feeble and yet quite forlorn,
The net got him, the vice of Joe Warren.
To be studied by Kate,
there be no more free mate,
He should have just kept being boring.
death to salps, an anthem by Chance Miller
those salps know what they done was wrong we know those bastards don't got long we'll catch them with this song I think we'll catch them with this song salty protean slippery salps We'll kill them with our net and watch scientists drown them in medicine numbing wounds they won't forget. these wounds they won't forget. those salps... salacious, portentous, boiling in alka seltzer while we grin, We'll watch them sink to the bottom, and float them back again. In the end when we are done and they've been sent through hell, tortured in the name of science, for sins we can't re-tell they'll find solace in their turmoil in a negative eighty cell.