Week 4: Field Report

August 28-September 4, 2011, written by Joseph Grzymski B466-P is well, working hard, and finally collecting samples from beyond Arthur Harbor. That is the best summary of our week that ended Sunday September 4. The week began Monday with an all day concentration from the Palmer Station Aquarium of 650L of seawater.  This sample was complemented with samples for Chl a (the primary light harvesting pigment of photosynthetic organisms), CHN (measures the organic Carbon, Hydrogen and Nitrogen content of the organic matter [organisms] on our filters and gives us an indication of how healthy they are and to some extent what types of organisms we are capturing on the filter), active fluorescence (see the week 4 report) and nucleic acids (Iva will be detailing this in a future report).

On Tuesday, we prepared an outdoor tank for a mesocosm experiment. A mesocosm is a medium scale (1000 liters in this case) experiment where we will allow the natural variability of the light and temperature to influence the organisms and hopefully generate biomass. These efforts were thwarted on Tuesday because there was a problem with the unfiltered seawater intake system. This was quickly fixed and we thank Gram Colegrove for his help (see Gram in action). Sampling was suspended for the rest of the day to allow the lines to clear, the tank to drain and refill with clean water and to prepare for a long day Wednesday.

Wednesday we prepared the tank for our experiment. This required making an “innoculum” which is a concentrated mixture of biological matter usually added to fresh media. Bethany and Austin concentrated 900L of water down to 10L and we added this to our 1000l tank.  This continued into Thursday when another 1200L of Arthur Harbor water was concentrated to 25L and added to the tank. Sampling the tank for Chlorophyll a, species composition and fluorometry began at 0830 on Friday.

Friday was a hectic, great day. We had open water for only the second time since arriving (the first time was for 3 hours). B-466 jumped at the opportunity and everyone but Joe went out on the water ably guided by Captain Neal. Joe stayed behind for an interview about our outreach with middle school students on the local Reno NPR station KUNR. You can find that interview here:http://www.dri.edu/mission-antarctica-news. The group did plankton tows at Station B at 2 depths (5m and 15m) and collected water for discrete measurements at 5m. We collected samples for RNA extractions from beautifully growing diatoms dominated by Corethron. We measured the physical properties of the water using a CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) and active fluorescence using a FRRF (Fast Repetition Rate Fluorometer). We included a figure of the temperature and salinity profile on the Field Data page.

Saturday was another great science day and we extend many thanks to the entire station for being so accommodating on our second day sampling on the water. This was a two-day weekend for everyone but science. Again, it was Gram to the rescue as he was on watch, launched the boat and generally made sure we were ok while the rest of station caught up on much-deserved R&R. We sampled Station C for most of the day. Please see the accompanying video on our Videos page.

Every time we head out on the water we are required to sign out on the “board”. This is for safety purposes – especially in case of fire - station personnel know who needs to be accounted for during a muster. And, every time we sign out we give ourselves a name rather than say Boat 66 (boring) or (Joe, Deneb, Bethany and Austin are ok at 1200 on Station E). So Saturday we named our field party “Dilworth” after the Dilworth Stem Academy in Sparks, Nevada. They are the main middle school we are outreaching to during our field season. So in honor of their hard work we named our boat after them and Bethany made a little video of our day. As well, the day was highlighted by some incredible samples of diatoms and all of our associated field measurements went well. We also had fun playing “animal, vegetable, mineral – a form of 20 questions” while towing the nets. In the future we look forward to show tunes as Deneb seems to have a penchant for remembering some oldies but goodies – but I’m getting ahead of myself. Saturday night Perri and Bede treated us to a great game of visual and audio trivia. B466 fought valiantly and just barely lost- we take solace knowing we were “above-average” for a science group.

All in all it was an incredible week of work and Sunday was a much-needed day off for the station but also a great day of catch-up for those of us balancing responsibilities at home.

Antarctica.dri.edu for more!