“Down to the Twilight” continues with North Atlantic research

Another busy season of North Atlantic ecosystem research is in full swing with two large European ocean vessels currently blogging while at sea.

UK’s RRS James Cook has just sailed to the Porcupine Abyssal Plain to study the twilight zone and Marine Snow (follow the twitter #hashtag #MarineSnow for updates). The crew and scientific party will be at sea 20 days, and will interact with the UK research program OSMOSE, deploying sea gliders in the same research area. Christian Lindemann and Antony Birchill will post regular updates on the “Down to the Twilight” blog.

At the same time, the Norwegian G.O.Sars is nearing completion of surveys between Norway and Greenland in iceberg ridden waters (follow blog and videocasts in norwegian and on the G.O. Sars’ Facebook page).

Both cruises are in support of the EURO-BASIN Cruise Campaigns 2012-2013 (full calendar).

EURO-BASIN Cruise Campaign Calendar 2013

EURO-BASIN Cruise Campaign Calendar 2013

Where is the team now?

Three months after the return of the RV METEOR from the Deep Convection cruise, some of the cruise participants are travelling to Trondheim in Norway, to complete the EURO-BASIN Mesocosm experiments.

First samples have just been collected, following a two week setup by NOC, CNRS-UBO, University of Munich, with other participants preparing to arrive for the experimental runs.

Professor Christina De La Rocha will be running a daily photo blog, so you can follow the mesocosm of colleagues, running a mesocosm of their own.

Follow the photo blog on http://eurobasinmesocosm.blogspot.dk/

A great crew

The unsung heroes of this succesful expedition are undoubtedly the ship`s crew who make sure all the daily ship operations go like clockwork, so that the scientists can perform their research in the safest and most optimal conditions.

Linda Holste and Chris Lindemann interview the crew and captain of the FS METEOR. A big THANK YOU to them for their efforts during the past 6 weeks.

FS METEOR`s Captain Schneider

Captain Schneider, for how long have you been working as a captain? And for how many years on the METEOR?

Schneider: My first ship as a captain was a coaster called REALTA since January 1980. In June 2010 I started as captain on the METEOR.

What do you like most about “your” ship?

Schneider: Actually everything; besides the fact that I am allowed to sail with a great crew, I really enjoy the variety of work on a research vessel.

What is the greatest challenge on a research vessel?

Schneider: For sure one challenge is to “sail” the ship, maneuvering the ship is as much of a challenge as the deployment of scientific gear. Most of the gear is by now well-known, but yet there is new gear whose deployment demands improvisation. This applies to the crew on the bridge, but even more to the crew on deck. And only if everybody works hand-in-hand, including the scientists, the designated research goals can be achieved.

In what way do you follow the science on board? Do you have special scientific interests that you follow as soon as you have the possibility?

Schneider: Actually I do not have a single special scientific interest. The ocean is full of life, not only in the water column, but also in the benthos and it is always astonishing, what scientists investigate. Most of the research topics are new to me, but some I know from the media already, some living creatures I can directly watch (if sampled), others I can follow during investigation with, for instance, the ROV. Also, geology is a research field that I am engaged with, especially since I was confronted with it during my studies on deep drilling technology.

Spontaneity seems to be a captains` requirement as we have seen here and there on the first Leg. How flexible are you and do you like geological cruises with a well structured station plan better than physical/biological cruises, during which station plans have to be changed spontaneously?

Schneider: Spontaneity and flexibility are for sure things that belong together. If one cannot deal with it or one is too rigid, many things will not be achieved at all or only with a lot of effort. Science often seems like chaos, sometimes more, sometimes less, but it is always interesting enough to investigate. And this is only possible if one is flexible to the environment.

Thank you very much fort his interview, captain Schneider!

Chasing transparent needles in a moving haystack!

by Michael Blackett,
Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science

Jellyfish represent a bewilderingly diverse array of zooplankton that play an often under appreciated role in planktonic ecosystems.

When conditions are favourable, jellyfish can grow and reproduce extremely quickly. Voracious predation by dense seasonal blooms can influence the structure of the planktonic community and restrict energy transfer to higher trophic levels.

Physophora hydrostatica © Mike Blackett, SAHFOS

Unfortunately, we know surprisingly little about the biology and ecology of these ubiquitous yet enigmatic creatures. This makes predicting the causes and consequences of their blooms challenging. On this cruise we have deployed the ‘jelly-net’, which is designed to carefully sample these fragile organisms. This has allowed us to examine the jellyfish species assemblage and collect specimens for molecular genetic analysis back on terra firma.

Unlike the highly sophisticated LOPC, mentioned earlier in the bog, the jelly-net samples do require tedious hours behind the microscope. Taxonomic identification requires an extensive knowledge of jellyfish anatomy and is challenging at best. The task is even more difficult on a ship in the North Atlantic. Imagine trying to find needles in a haystack, only the needles are transparent and the haystack is moving with the pitch and roll of the boat!

Rathkea ocptopunctata ©Mike Blackett, SAHFOS

Positive identification of the species encountered means we can validate the images captured by the VPR (see entry Flying through microspace) and investigate the fine-scale vertical distribution of discrete components of the jellyfish community that exhibit highly variable behavioural and functional ecology.

Molecular genetic characterisation allows us to explore the genetic similarity of geographically isolated populations, unravel phylogenies and evolutionary lineages and produce ‘genetic barcodes’ for the identification of specimens based on their genetic makeup.

Since the beginning of Leg II of this expedition, it is remarkable to see how the jellyfish communities have developed. An explosion of new recruits and reproductive stages has succeeded the few characteristic winter species as the jellyfish begin to exploit the intense productivity of the spring bloom.

A breathing ocean

Latitude: 62°48′  N
Longitude: 002°36′ W
Waveheight: 2.5 meters
Water temperature: 6.7 Celcius
by Gisle Nondal & Emil Jeansson

A group from the Uni Bjerknes Centre and the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research in Bergen, Norway, are on-board to perform measurements related to the oceanic cycling of carbon, in addition to measurements estimating the flux of oxygen directly involved in biological activity.

The parameters describing the oceanic carbon cycle include total inorganic carbon dissolved in the seawater (DIC), total alkalinity, pH, and the partial pressure of CO2 (pCO2).

Projected ocean acidification in the North Atlntic, and related impacts on corals by 2020, 2060 and 2100: from better (blue) to worse (orange) conditions for coral skeletal growth. Source: Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

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Flying through microspace

Latitude:  61°06′ N
Longitude:  001°06′ W
See latest position
Air Temp.: 3.3° C
Water Temp.: 8.1° C
by Klas Moeller onboard the FS METEOR for Leg II

The Video Plankton Recorder (VPR) is non-destructive modern, optical sampling gear. Imagine flying a sophisticated underwater microscope through the water at night. The VPR`s rapid camera images plankton and suspended particles (the base of the food web) at up to 30 frames per second.

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Back on track

Latitude: 60°42′ N
Longitude: 000°30′ E
Wave height: 1 m
Air Temp.: 2.1° C
Water Temp.: 8.4° C
by Chris Lindemann onboard the FS METEOR for Leg II

After a successful first leg we arrived in Torshavn (Faroe Islands) early morning on last thursday (5 April). Most of us invaded the town right way, eager to set their feed on land and to interact with civilization outside our tiny microcosm universe.

Full crew party for Deep Convection Leg I. See Crew page for details.

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Surface Blooms as convection goes strong

Latitude: 62°48′
Longitude: 003°12′
Wave height: 2.5m
Air Temp.: 3.1° C
Water Temp.: 6.3° C
by Ivo Grigorov, EURO-BASIN Project Office

Chlorophyll a satellite imagery around the sampling trinagle of the 'Deep Convection' sites. ©NEODAAS/PML/NERC

Following a short stop at Torshavn (Faroe Islands) last weekend for a crew swap, the FS METEOR is back in the sampling area in occassional heavy seas.

Due to a problem, 24hrs were lost from the schedule, but the team is now trying to catch up. Seniour scientist aboard, Michael St John, mentions that the surface has not yet stratified, but FS METEOR is sailing in surface bloom conditions.

“Convection is still spinning out here. Amazing!!” Continue reading

Snow above, snow below

by Ivo Grigorov, EURO-BASIN Project Office

While waiting for the expedition to change over the scientific party before heading back out to sea, how about an imaginary journey. Imagine you had James Cameron`s DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible for a day, and you were descending down just below the FS Meteor in the Faroe-Shetland Channel. What would you see?

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