Weekly Field Report Takeover


Week 12, October 18-24, 2011 

In Joe's absence I will be writing the weekly field report for the Mission Antarctica website. Check out the site to access mentioned data, videos, and photo slideshows: Antarctica.dri.edu.

This week marked the end of the field season with the entire team. The Gould left on Thursday taking Joe and many of our station friends with it. Neal, Clair, and Keith- we cannot thank you enough for the welcoming way you accepted and cared for us over the past three months. 

As for Joe, you constantly provided the team with both strength and comic relief and we will miss you as we wrap up the field season. That being said, Iva, Deneb, Austin, and I have lots to do in the coming weeks and are as enthusiastic as ever!

When the Gould departs from Palmer Station it is tradition to take the ‘polar plunge’. In honor of Joe and our departing friends, Austin, Iva and I joined the group and took the plunge from the pier into the below freezing water. The group of jumpers dash across the snow, assemble in the hot tub, and warm up before heading back to work. It was cold, exhilarating, and provided much needed catharsis after a sad morning of goodbyes.

As for this week’s fieldwork, we were able to boat to Station E on both Monday and Friday. To get an idea of where Station E is located relative to Palmer Station, click here to see the boating map. Our team has really streamlined the field process and has become quite efficient at collecting samples. We collected water at depths ranging from 5m to 60m, towed the plankton net, dropped the CTD and on Friday, dropped the PUV. Check out the updated Field Data section to view water column profiles gathered this week by the CTD.

Boating in Antarctica is both incredibly beautiful and vital for polar research. That being said, there are numerous dangers associated with boating off such an isolated and severe continent. We had a small scare while departing station on Friday. While trying to finagle under the bowline to leave station the neighboring boat’s bungee cord gave way and pulled Iva out of the boat and into the icy water. Thankfully, we were still docked at station and nobody was hurt- we even shared a few laughs. However, situations like this remind us how important it is to pay extra attention and take extreme care while in the field. Check out the video I (ironically) put together this week to learn about boating safety in Antarctica in the Video Section.

In the lab, Iva processed the net tows from the field as usual. Most samples were preserved in RNA later and one sample at each depth was extracted to check the quality of RNA. The light adaptation experiment came to a close early this week; 500 ml of each culture were collected and preserved in RNA later for future sequencing. To learn more about this experiment check out the video on the culture experiments in the Video Section. We are now repeating the same experimental method but with three new cultures of very different morphologies. By studying how cultured diatoms of varying shapes and sizes adapt to shifting light conditions under laboratory conditions, we can better understand how diatoms adjust in nature. Austin and I began cell counting these new cultures on Saturday and the whole team will begin taking fluorometric measurements every four hours starting Monday. In addition to losing Joe, we also lost the stationary fluorometer that was -until it’s departure on the Gould- taking continuous measurements on the local sea water. To compensate, the team is manually taking measurements every four hours.

Taking a polar plunge to say goodbye!

Taking a polar plunge to say goodbye!

Deneb has been hard at work both in the field and in her microscope cubical studying and identifying phytoplankton species. Although Corethron criophilium has continued to be the most abundant diatom in our Station E samples from the start, the population has basically doubled between sampling on September 16th and October 10th. To learn more and see the data, check out our Field Data.

To put this lengthy field report to an end (cut me slack as I am new at this and it was a busy week)- this week was bittersweet and marked by leaving friends, excellent sampling, and a few jumps in the water (some on purpose and others not).

We love hearing feedback from readers, answering questions, and checking out your tweets. The students from Dilworth STEM Academy asked the team how people in Antarctica maintain a healthy active lifestyle. I put together a little video to answer the question this week (below).

Continue to communicate questions and concerns with us. Whether they pertain to our research or life on station, we love and appreciate the feedback!

Video: Week 9: Field Report

Week 9, October 5-10, 2011, written by Joe Grzymski Excitement! Hard work! Incredible data!

Week 10 was never in our plan but somehow it ended up being one of the best weeks of science yet. Calm winds and cold temperatures continued to consolidate the sea ice over the weekend. On Monday Gram and Steve – members of the Search and Rescue team, roped up and tested the sea ice. They drilled holes to test the depth and consistency of the ice. It was between 8 and 12 inches thick and we were given permission to travel on the sea ice out to Station A.  We sampled on it Monday in a test run for what turned out to be four days of sampling four times a day between 9am and 9pm.

Plankton Net in Ice hole
Plankton Net in Ice hole

Tuesday and Wednesday were marked with clear, relatively warm weather; the sunrises and sunsets were stunning (see Week 10 pictures on the Photos page). Thursday and Friday were marked by cloudier conditions, as a low-pressure system started to creep toward Palmer Station and bring a storm that would clear the ice out. This pattern is evident in the graph of solar irradiance – the lower graph (Figure 1). The first two days of the experiment, Tuesday and Wednesday, were bright with peak irradiances hitting 1000 μMol photons m-2 s-1, Thursday, when it became more overcast only reached 800 and on Friday it went down further with only a brief peak reaching 700 while most of the day was less than 600.


These irradiances are “captured” in our measurements of the maximum quantum yield of photosystem II (top panel, labeled FvFm which stands for variable fluorescence divided by maximum fluorescence. This is basically a “happiness” index for organisms that are photosynthesizing- the closer the value to 1 the happier they are. The values of Fv/Fm typically dip during the brightest times of the day. In our results Fv/Fm indeed dips after the brightest sun and then recovers at night. During these four days we sampled at 0900,1300,1700 & 2100 on Tuesday through Thursday. On Friday we sampled the earliest three time points and then had to shut the operation down due to high winds and rain. We collected 16 discrete samples of phytoplankton for microscopic, fluorometric, and nucleic acid analysis.

None of the work performed throughout the week would have been possible without the support of the search and rescue team lead by Gram and Steve or the support of each person who helped us sample. Thanks to everyone for your support. Photos from this great week are included above and on the Photos page.

Learn more at Antarctica.dri.edu