Archive for the ‘Scientists Diaries’ Category

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Follow up…

September 8, 2009

You may be wondering what’s happened since the end of our Arctic trip, so I thought I’d write a short post to keep you updated.

The short story is that many of us are still analysing data and writing up our results. Once scientists get back to “the real world”, like everyone, we have lots of other things to deal with. It is a bit of a shock to the system coming home after a long field trip or a research cruise. Not only do we have to integrate ourselves back into normal society but we have to get back into the routine of working, cooking, cleaning and attending to family needs. We have been a bit spoilt being in the Arctic, because we are taken care of – all our cleaning and cooking is done for us, so we can just spend all the time focussing on enjoying the science.

I would like to update this blog with some of the interesting results that will hopefully come out of this trip. The information should start coming out soon, so as soon as it does, we will get the information out to you. Watch this space…

We had the first EPOCA annual meeting in Plymouth at the beginning of July and it was a good opportunity to catch up with everyone from the trip. This was quite a mixed meeting, with lots of session dealing with project management and how everyone was getting on with their individual role in EPOCA. But there were a few snippets of science data as well. The concern over the Arctic ocean was one of the most relevant – cruise and model data suggesting that continued emissions of CO2 will result in the Arctic becoming undersaturated with respect to aragonite (the mineral pteropods and other shelled organisms use to form their shells) by the year 2030. Steeve Comeau’s work on pteropods from last summer in the Arctic showed that pteropods seem to be affected by these changes in aragonite conditions, so that doesn’t look good for them. Other work is showing that the double whamy of temperature and ocean acidifcation are going to cause complicated interacting impacts. And although ocean acidifcation is no doubt important, we should not forget the multitude of other stresses that humans are forcing on our fragile environment.

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Expériences en cours

June 2, 2009

Suite aux quelques jours de mauvais temps du début de la semaine dernière, les ptéropodes sont enfin dans le fjord. Les sorties pour la pêche aux ptéropodes sont toujours aussi plaisantes (même si il fait parfois horriblement froid!). Avec la fonte nous avons ainsi admiré quelques icebergs.Ny 685
La pêche s’est révélée très fructueuse ces derniers jours avec un maximum de 300 ptéropodes récoltés hier!
Ny 706Ny 710

J’ai ainsi commencé de nombreuses expériences sur la respiration, la nutrition et la calcification des ptéropodes. Bref de très très grosses journées de travail!

Presque tous les autres membres de la mission sont partis ce matin. Je me retrouve seul avec Aninja et Sandra pour mes 10 derniers jours à Ny-Alesund qui seront sûrement très chargés!

Steeve

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Going home

June 1, 2009

We have had an eventful last few days in the lab. The sediment experiment finished on Thursday, so Bonnie and Lara spent a long day in the lab slicing sediment cores up so that they could take home samples for analysis. On Saturday the urchin experiment finished so Hannah, Bonnie and I (with help for Lara, thanks!) spent a good number of hours taking more samples from the last set of urchins. Axinja and Sandra moved their experimental tanks over to the small experiment room, where the nutrient experiments had been; and by dinner we had completely cleared the large experiment room ready for packing and tidying the next day.

Nearly empty lab!

Empty experiment lab. Photo Helen Findlay

We had a bit of free time on Friday to relax in between all the experiments, so Lara, Bonnie and I took a walk down the fjord to visit Corbel. Corbel is an extension of the AWIPEV base – a few small huts grouped together about 6 km down the fjord from the main village. At the moment there are about 5 or 6 French scientists working there. They work on a mix of different topics, ranging from glaciology to ornithology (studying birds – there is a large cliff nearby where many of the gulls and terns nest). They started to build the huts last September and are now adding a few more solar panals and testing out a wind generator so that they are completely self sufficient for energy. The idea is that the scientists are a lot closer to the things that they study, and save time and energy travelling back and forth between study sites.

Corbel

Corbel field base. Photo Helen Findlay

Lara and Bonnie having a Tea break on the walk back from Corbel

Lara and Bonnie having a tea break on the walk back from Corbel. Photo Helen Findlay

Ornithologists at work

Ornithologists at work by the bird cliff. Photo Helen Findlay

Sunday and Monday have been our packing days. Steeve, Axinja and Sandra are staying some extra time so that laboratory is not too empty but it feels strange having an empty experiment room again. Our last day is filled with beautiful sunshine so once we have packed we are going to go enjoy our last afternoon in the snow and sun.

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Eine aufregende Zeit

May 25, 2009

Nachdem nun alle Geräte eingetroffen und benötigte Tauchstellen erreichbar sind, geht es rund in den Laboren. Unser zusätzliches Hyas-Projekt haben wir am Samstag den 16. Mai erfolgreich beendet. Die Daten schlummern gerade noch in den Büchern und Dateien, da es fast nahtlos mit unserem Serripes-Projekt weiter ging. Fast, denn der 17. Mai ist der norwegische Nationalfeiertag, der hier gebührend zelebriert wird und das schon ab 7 Uhr morgens!

Weckparade

Weckparade 2Die Weck-Parade on tour. Fotos: Zora Zittier

Damit ihn auch niemand verschläft, gibt es eine Weck-Parade der eigenen Art: ein „Orchester“ zieht durch alle Häuser, allerdings beherrscht kaum ein beteiligter sein Instrument. Vorwiegend geht es darum, dass jeder teilnehmen kann, er braucht nur Töne erzeugen können, so dass das Ganze möglichst laut und chaotisch klingt. Sehr spaßig!

norwegische Flagge

Traditionelle Kleidung

An solch einem bedeutenden Tag wird sich traditionell gekleidet. Fotos: Zora Zittier

Langsam trudeln die Bewohner am „Dorfplatz“ ein, die Flagge wird gehisst und die Nationalhymne gesungen; gar nicht so einfach das Norwegisch. Anschließend wird mit Sekt und Erdbeeren angestoßen. Nach einem ausgiebigen Frühstück folgt Parade Nummer 2, bei der nun alle an die Instrumente gebeten werden.

Der Marsch

 

Die allgemeine Parade mit großer Flagge vorne weg. Foto: Zora Zittier

Eine Rede fehlt natürlich auch nicht an diesem besonderen Tag. Gleich darauf geht es mit lustigen Spielen weiter, bei denen oft nicht der Schnellste oder „Beste“ gewinnt, allerdings wissen die Teams nicht, welche Regel gerade gilt und zum Schluss sind doch irgendwie alle Sieger. Das Programm wurde am Abend mit einem umfangreichen, sehr leckerem (!) Barbecue beendet. Skol!

Montagmorgen ging es straight  mit dem Wissenschafts-Alltag weiter: Muscheln vermessen, wiegen, markieren und in die verschiedenen Inkubationstanks überführen. Seit Dienstag nehmen wir fleißig Hämolymphproben, messen pH, Sauerstoffgehalt und Gesamt-CO2, nehmen jegliche Gewebeproben und verpacken behutsam die Schalen von früh bis spät. Um einmal aus dem Run raus zu kommen, hatten Axinja und ich beschlossen, Steeve beim Fang seiner Geflügelschnecken zu helfen. Das Ganze sollte so aussehen, dass wir für etwa 2 Stunden mit zwei Booten raus auf den Fjord wollten, ein paar mal das Planktonnetz ausbringen und wieder zurück. Sollte!

ÜberlebensanzügeÜberlebensanzüge, nicht gerade kleident, aber nützlich. Foto: Pieter van Rijswijk

Es ging also raus auf den Fjord, weit raus Richtung offenes Meer. Alles lief hervorragend bis vom Begleitboot der Motor nicht mehr wollte, ja. Macht nichts, es gibt einen Zweitmotor, zwar nicht mit annähernd so viel Power, aber dann geht es eben langsam und gemächlich zurück. Von wegen, der wollte auch nicht. Somit musste das kleine Fun Yak das größere Begleitboot den weiten Weg mühselig zurückschleppen. Nach ewig vielen Versuchen, entschloss sich der Motor doch wieder zu arbeiten. Über 5 Stunden später und halb Erfroren sind wir endlich wieder im Hafen eingelaufen. Puh, was ein Tag!

Boot abschleppen

Ein Boot im Schlepptau. Foto: Zora Zittier

And by the way das Thermometer ist mittlerweile wieder auf knackige -8°C gesunken, dazu stürmt und schneit es ordentlich womit wir auf einen Windchill-Faktor von sage und schreibe -26,9°C kommen!

Zora Zittier

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Search for the sea butterflies…

May 25, 2009

This last week has been a very routine week in the lab. Most of our time has spent taking samples of the water conditions in our experimental containers, sampling the urchin blood (see Hannah’s blog), measuring turnover rates (see blog) and carrying out fertilisation experiments (again, see Hannah’s blog but also check out the study 10 page for a video and update). So this weekend we were very organised and managed to get all our main sampling done so that we could have a bit more time to see the area around the base while we are here. It seems a shame to come all the way to the Arctic to then spend all the time inside a laboratory!

 Bonnie and Helen kitting up for a boat trip

Bonnie and Helen kit up in survival suits for our boat trip. Photo: Bonnie Laverock

On Saturday we joined Steeve on his search for Pteropods. Steeve has not been having much luck in getting these tiny floating snails so far (they look a bit like butterflies because they use their foot a bit like wings). Last week he managed to take the boat a little bit further out of the fjord and found an area where he collected around 80 or so of these creatures; so on Saturday we went back to the spot to find some more. This involved taking out two small boats and driving about 15 km from the base out of the fjord. It was an extremely calm day but our early start meant that the mist was still covering the fjord and although the water was as flat as a mirror it was a little spooky speeding out into the mist in our boats. As the mist lifted we were treated to amazing views of the bright blue glaciers creeping up to the waters edge surrounded by dark mountains.

 Speeding into the mist

Speeding into the mist on the way out to the site. Photo: Bonnie Laverock

Boating past the glaciers as the mist clears

Heading home past the glaciers and dark mountains. Photo: Bonnie Laverock

Once we arrived at the site, we switched off our engine and let the boat drift around (we were the support team in case anything went wrong) while Steeve and his crew got on with sorting out the plankton net and buckets. Collecting pteropods is a bit of a fine art, they are quite small and delicate so the plankton net was lowered gently down about 50 m in the water and then slowly bought back up again. Steeve retrieved the large container from the end of the net and carefully plucked out any pteropods.

 Steeve looking for pteropods in the container at the end of the plankton net

Steeve checking for pteropods in the container at the end of the plankton net. Photo: Bonnie Laverock

After about 5 or 6 plankton tows Steeve had collected over 40 pteropods, which is still not enough for his experiment but our time was running out – every time we leave the base we have to take a radio, a rifle and a flare gun, as well as inform someone on base what time we will be back and where we will be going – so we headed back to base. Snow was still falling as we returned, even though the mist had lifted but there were still no waves and just the wind from the boat keeping us cold. We saw quite a few birds, lots of fulmars, some skuas and even some puffins. I’ve got a video to put up soon and they will feature in that.

 Bonnies view - watching Helen watch the other boat

Bonnies view – watching Helen watch the other boat. Photo Bonnie Laverock

The weather has turned again now. The sun came out on Sunday for the first time in about 5 days and we had a beautiful but bitterly cold day. The wind picked up throughout Sunday afternoon and by the evening it was snowing again. This morning we woke up to more snow and strong winds, it is now minus 7 ºC but with wind chill it is down to minus 22 ºC, which is the coldest it has been since we arrived. The divers cannot go out and Steeve has to wait another day to continue his search for the sea butterflies…

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There’s no business like snow business

May 22, 2009

One of the best things about coming to a place like Ny-Alesund is that it’s not just for marine biologists – there are all sorts of other scientists here, from glaciologists to meteorologists. This means that we get the chance to talk to people who are doing totally different things to ourselves, and to learn a bit about what they study. On Wednesday evening, we jumped at the chance to do some field work with a snow scientist … and not just because it meant we had to drive skidoos!

We set off for the field site after dinner. It was only about 10 minutes’ drive away by snow scooter, but even at that short distance, it felt really good to be outside in the open after a couple of weeks on base. Our first job when we arrived was to pack away the equipment that Wiley the friendly snow scientist had set up earlier in the day. This consisted of a rig-up holding three different irradiance meters; one which measures the amount of light coming from above, and two which measure the light being reflected back again by the snow. Wiley is studying the reflective properties (“albedo”) of snow, which can affect the world’s climate because light-coloured objects tend to reflect rather than absorb heat. Wiley and his colleagues are particularly interested in how soot pollution from the atmosphere affects the reflectivity of the snow once it becomes trapped between the ice crystals, and they also use small aircraft to take measures of irradiance from the air, which they can compare with their field measurements.

Wiley and Helen start to dismantle the equipment used for measuring sky- and snow- irradiance. Photo: Bonnie Laverock

Wiley and Helen start to dismantle the equipment used for measuring sky- and snow- irradiance. Photo: Bonnie Laverock

Once the equipment had been packed away, it was time to dig some snow pits! Wiley had previously marked out three squares in the snow, and we dug a pit next to each of these so that we could look at a vertical section of snow going down the side of the pit. Basically, Wiley sits inside the pit and studies the layers that make up this section, particularly to look at the size and shape of the ice crystals in each layer.

A layered section of snow with fingertip for scale. Photo: Bonnie Laverock

A layered section of snow with fingertip for scale. Photo: Bonnie Laverock

The size and shape of the ice crystals within the snow layers affects the reflective properties of the snow as a whole. For instance, round grains of ice might reflect light in all directions, whereas more angular grains would reflect light less predictably, some of which might bounce back up, and some of which might get absorbed by deeper snow layers. The individual layers of snow are often separated by ice lenses, which absorb more light rather than reflecting it back at the sky. Wiley made a note of the type of ice crystal present at each layer, measuring the size of the crystals with a magnifying lens called a loupe, while we took notes in his field notebook. We were surprised by how many different types of snow there were!

Studying the size of ice crystals using a loupe and a millimetre-square meausuring card. Photo: Bonnie Laverock

Studying the size of ice crystals using a loupe and a millimetre-square meausuring card. Photo: Bonnie Laverock

While we were doing all of this digging and measuring, Hannah was set to work to collect the pristine snow from the three squares that Wiley had drawn earlier. The top 5 cm of snow was collected to be taken back to the laboratory for analysis of carbon content – this gives an idea for how much carbon soot is in the snow, and therefore how polluted the air was when the snow fell. It was important to be very clean when collecting this, because the carbon is present in such low amounts that it can easily be contaminated – so Wiley had marked three particularly clean areas of snow, which Hannah carefully bagged up and labelled.

Hannah carefully collects clean snow while Wiley studies the deeper layers in his snow pit. Photo: Bonnie Laverock

Hannah carefully collects clean snow while Wiley studies the deeper layers in his snow pit. Photo: Bonnie Laverock

Finally, when everything was measured and collected, we filled in the snow pits, packed everything onto a sledge, and attached it to a snow scooter to be towed back to base. We had one final rest with some chocolate – a reward for 3 hours’ hard work as snow science field assistants – and then it was back to base for a well-earned dip in the hot tub before resuming our lives as marine biologists!

Photo: Bonnie Laverock

Photo: Bonnie Laverock

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Les ptéropodes semblent arriver!

May 22, 2009

Après plus de trois semaines à Ny-Alesund les populations de ptéropodes semblent augmenter dans le fjord. Hier Sophie Marie-Do et moi avons passé une grande partie de la journée à la recherche de ptéropodes.

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Sophie se chargea du treuil, Marie-Do des photos et moi du pilotage… Après quelques heures dans le froid nous sommes rentrés au labo accompagnés de 32 ptéropodes.

Même si ce n’est pas beaucoup, je vais enfin pouvoir commencer une expérience, en l’occurence des tests sur l’effet du pH sur la respiration des ptéropodes.

ptero-1805

De plus je continue des expériences sur les taux de digestion (à différents pH) et la croissance des coquilles de Margarites helicinus.
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Aujourd’hui une “expédition” est prévue avec deux bateaux, afin de voir si des populations plus importantes de ptéropodes sont présentes à l’embouchure du fjord.

Steeve