Week 2: Field Report

Week 3, August 14-21st


The beginning of our third week (second at Palmer Station) commenced full sampling and experimental work loads with the caveat that we were still locked out from sampling on the water due to ice. Instead, we sampled from the unfiltered seawater intake system. Phytoplankton biomass was low (approximately 0.2 μg Chl al-1 that was 2:1 dominated by degraded chlorophyll a – also known as phaeopigments). Diatoms dominate the population with small centric diatoms in the majority. Fast repetition rate fluorometry indicate fairly “happy” cells albeit ones that are light limited.

Isolating RNA from the phytoplankton under such low biomass conditions and with lots of detritus in the water remains a challenge and was the dominant laboratory project of the week. That project was handled well by Iva and we hope to have most issues resolved today. Austin and Bethany continue to mature into filtering experts and helped rig the fractionation system we are currently using to concentrate 400-900l of seawater. Many thanks go out to Perri Barbour, Palmer Station manager and the rest of station for their incredible support. Without their help our construction of a state-of-the-art phytoplankton fractionator would have been impossible.

Deneb spent a lot of time with her eyes glued to the microscope counting and identifying cells from our sampling efforts. I ran between projects- operating two fluorometers, coding the analysis pipeline for our data and designing experiments to relieve light-limitation and stimulate transcription and protein synthesis. It was a hectic week of troubleshooting while collecting data and could not have been done without teamwork and collaboration.

Weather remains an impediment to boating. Most of the week was characterized by variable conditions- a high pressure front, a storm that brought snow (and welcomed powder for skiers and boarders) and a new low pressure system from the north brought warm weather, higher winds and will hopefully blow a lot of ice out to sea. Currently it is 2°C with 88% relative humidity, wind from the north at 30MPH gusting to 40MPH and pressure is 990mB. A day or two of this and we will finally head out boating.

Written by Joseph Grzymski

Learn more: http://www.dri.edu/antarctica-field-reports?start=2