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.