Mission Antarctica Field Reports

Field Report

Week 17, November 22-29, 2011

Packed up and going homeI am appropriately beginning the final field report of the season within a zodiac cruising across station E. This time there will be no sampling, no operating the winch, no plankton collection. This zodiac is sitting atop the Laurence M Gould-

Deneb, Austin, Iva, and I are journeying back home.

Cruising past crabeater seals and penguins on ice floes with decent visibility of the continent, we are still in familiar territory (within the boating limits). We are due to arrive in Punta Arenas on December 1st. Our samples and luggage are all aboard, packed carefully and safely away (thanks to Bamma and Judy)- the field season is officially over.

Our final week on station was understandably busy. Between a visiting tour ship (the National Geographic Explorer), the conclusion of our light adaptation culture experiment, packing away the labs and our personal belongings, Thanksgiving dinner, and trying desperately to soak up and enjoy our very last moments of Antarctic life, we all had our hands full.

Enjoying Thanksgiving dinner on station was an appropriate ending to our time in Antarctica considering all that I- and the rest of Palmer- have to be thankful for. I am thankful for the opportunity to have lived and worked as part of a gracious, kind, giving, and accommodating community on a land of unparalleled beauty. I am thankful to have met and been cared for by a selfless and hardworking station staff. I am thankful to have been selected to join a team of dedicated and passionate scientists to carry out important and challenging research.

Lastly, I am thankful for the classrooms and individuals -family, friends, and strangers alike- who have followed along with us over the last four months. I- and of course the rest of the team- sincerely enjoyed working with all of you and I imagine and hope that someday, you may find yourselves engaged in similar wonderful situations and that you too, will have the opportunity to share those experiences with others.

-Bethany Goodrich


Field Report

Week 16, November 15-21, 2011

The entire team has been busy as bees this week! Most of our work now consists of cleaning our workspaces, boxing up lab supplies, and securely packing chemicals and samples for a safe return trip back to the United States. It is a bit sad watching our labs revert back to the state we found them in four months ago. Sunday is our set departure date and we are officially done with most lab sampling and all fieldwork.

The light adaptation culture experiment carried on this week and will continue until the Thursday before our departure. On Tuesday, we fully sampled our cultures that were then operating under two layers of screening. We took chlorophyll, cell counts, CHN, and fluorometry measurements and harvested the cultures for RNA. All of these measurements help give us a better understanding of stress levels and primary productivity within these diatom cultures as they adjust to changing light levels. The RNA collection is part of the functional genomic tier of our project and once sequenced, will provide insight into how these six studied species of diatoms responded to changes in light intensity on a molecular level. To learn more about this experiment check out the video section or review past field reports.

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Field work (B. Goodrich) Charismatic chinstrap penguin Choppy water Poor visibility
Field work (Bethany)
Charismatic chinstrap penguin (Bethany)
Choppy water (Iva)
Poor visibility(Deneb)

Our field season culminated in one final and intense day on Wednesday. The team set out with the intention of conducting a full 24-hr diel experiment (similar to the work we conducted at the ice hole in October). The plan was to zodiac out to Station E and collect a full CTD profile (70 meters deep), and plankton samples from 10 meters deep at 9am, 1pm, 5pm, 9pm, and 1am. Rapidly moving ice prevented us from conducting the 9pm and 1am sample sets. The samples we were able to collect were and will be analyzed for their species composition, primary productivity, and their transcriptomes to see if and what changes occurred between 9am and 5pm.

This week marked our final sampling week as B466 here at Palmer Station, Antarctica. This season has certainly had many ups and downs- from a cold, dark, and almost entirely iced-in beginning, to a warmer, much brighter, and still often iced-in end. We have sampled through holes in the ice, in zodiacs atop both rough swells and still and silent seas, in the company of icebergs, seals, porpoising penguins, whales, seasick comrades, and snow. We have sampled in cold dark refrigerated rooms, in the wake of both the Laurence M Gould and Nathaniel B Palmer, from cultured and wild diatoms at all hours of the day and late into the night.  All of this hard work is not only embodied in the tiny test tubes and other various samples currently being packaged up for shipment but, will also be retained in the countless memories the team have exuberantly collected over the past four months.

This upcoming and final week at Palmer will be incredibly hard. We are forced to give up the lives we built here in this quaint and kind station, on this mysterious and beautiful continent, and among some of the most selfless and interesting people on earth.

-Bethany Goodrich


Field Report

Week 15, November 7-14, 2011

The Laurence M. Gould arrived to Palmer Station late Monday night bringing a few new station members (including two ‘birders’ here to study the penguins) and fresh food. The ship left early Wednesday morning to carry out a few science related trips and is set to return to Palmer and pick us up two weeks from today. The Gould’s presence- although fleeting- was a gentle reminder to the team that our time here is rapidly ending. With that in mind, we were busy in the field and the lab this week collecting samples and further preparing for our departure. 

Our Light Adaptation Experiment continues and the first layer of screening was removed on the night of November 4th. Since the removal and in turn an increased exposure to light for our diatom cultures, DT03 has joined DT11 in rapid growth. DT10 continues to maintain a constant cell number and photosynthetic response (determined by fluorometry measurements taken at 4- hr intervals). The purpose of this indoor experiment is to collect controlled data in a lab setting to better understand how diatoms adapt to changing light conditions in their natural setting.

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The Zodiac is lowered into the harbor Charismatic gentoo penguin Blue ice Deneb to the rescue
Zodiac is lowered into harbor (Iva)
Charismatic gentoo penguin (Deneb)
Blue ice (Deneb)
Deneb to the rescue (Bethany)

DataHere on the Antarctic Peninsula, light changes dramatically both in length and intensity from winter to spring. Since our arrival in August the team has both observed and measured these changes first hand.  Shifts in light intensity, day length, and UV projection through the water column are illustrated on the graphs compiled by Deneb.

The remainder of lab time this week was spent carrying out regular weekly and daily measurements, further organization of data, and continued care of Deneb’s isolate cultures. Deneb isolated and cultured individual cells early on in the season that have since rapidly grown to many thousands of cells per ml. These cultures are transferred to larger flasks with more medium to maintain log phase and ensure continued growth. Prior to leaving Palmer, these cultures will be harvested for RNA.

As far as field sampling this week- although we were able to sample both Tuesday and Friday, neither trip ran quite as smoothly as the team has come to expect. Deneb, Iva, and Austin headed out to Station E on Tuesday where they were greeted by larger than normal swells. Iva quickly fell victim to sea sickness and was incapacitated for the remainder of the trip leaving Austin and Deneb to finish sampling.

Friday sampling with Austin, Deneb, and myself was even less glamorous. Austin and I were only able to lower the CTD and PUV before the intense swells knocked us both off our feet and rendered us useless for depth collection and plankton tows. Deneb valiantly finished sampling and drove us home through extremely windy conditions (gusts of 30 knots). The wind relentlessly blew salt water across the zodiac and soaked all three of us to the bone. Deneb unfairly received the brunt of the water as she steered us home through wind, ice, failing radios, and a fuel turnover. Needless to say, Austin, Iva, and I have all garnered new respect for both the power of the sea and our tough leader- Deneb Karentz.

-Bethany Goodrich


Field Report

Week 14, November 1-6, 2011

From shifting personnel to dramatically lengthening daylight hours, the team has witnessed many changes during our stay at Palmer Station. One characteristic however, has remained constant. The relentless battle between wind and ice for domination of the harbor has continued to define fieldwork for the team since our arrival. Ice and wind are the major obstacles that prevent us from boating and bringing home the field samples we so anxiously hope to collect at least twice a week. When ice in the harbor is either absent or maneuverable, the wind is often too violent to take the Zodiacs out. The moment the wind calms, the ice seems to return and this frustrating dynamic allows only brief windows for boating.

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Stranded in the Zodiac Tow back to station Krill A great view
Stranded
Tow back to station
Krill
Great view

This week, both ice and particularly violent winds plagued the harbor. Storms, with wind gusts peaking at fifty knots, decorated the inlet with whitecaps for several days. We were able to escape station and sample only once this week.

We left early Tuesday morning with Station E sampling on the pre-lunch agenda. Only five minutes after passing Bonaparte Point (just off of station) our engine cut out and could not be restarted. OSAR (Ocean Search and Rescue) suited up and met us on the water. Gram was unable to fix the problem on-site and so the OSAR zodiac had to tow us back to station for repair. Special thank you to Gram, Carolyn, and Mark for rescuing us!

Gram fitted our Zodiac with a working engine and fortunately, continued good weather meant we could retry after lunch. Iva, Deneb, and I sampled Station E with ease under calm conditions. Incidentally, during one of our plankton tows we collected a whole bunch of juvenile krill. One of the science groups on station studies these detrimentally important members of the ecosystem and per request, the krill were bottled up and brought home for data analysis. To learn more about krill, where they fit into the Antarctic food web, and to see the krill we caught in motion check out the video below.

Video coming soon

We moved through the remainder of the week with regular sampling of the aquarium water and the continuation of our light adaptation experiment. A screen was removed from the cultures and an attempt to harvest RNA was made. Unfortunately, inadequate biomass within the three cultures resulted in unsuccessful RNA extraction during this round. Hopefully, the greater exposure to light (by removing a layer of screening) will mean faster cell division and an adequate level of biomass in time for the removal of the next layer of screening. Check out the video section for an explanation of this ongoing indoor experiment.

DataIn other news, I finally completed the ‘Meet Joe’ and ‘Spring is Here’ videos that have been dominating my outreach time for awhile now. Chlorophyll measurements are on the rise suggesting the start of a plankton bloom and Deneb put together a nice grouping of chlorophyll data and further analysis that can be found on our data page. My fingers are tightly crossed for better weather, more field sampling, and in turn a more exciting field report for this upcoming week!

-Bethany Goodrich


Field Report

Week 13, October 25-31, 2011

Spring has begun here at Palmer Station. Much of the snow and ice that enveloped the ‘backyard’ (the area between station and the glacier) has started to melt away and reveal the rock and earth beneath. That being said, the ice in the harbor still prevented us from boating Monday through Thursday.

Monday was a particularly exciting day for Palmer station and a day I will personally remember always. During breakfast I watched two adelie penguins playing on the ice in the distance (my first time seeing penguins so close to station). Both gentoos and adelies have been spotted here and there throughout the past month. However, the station was still waiting eagerly for the masses to arrive. Sure enough, when Austin and I were outside taking our daily 8:30am sample, Austin gazed across the ice and pointed to a giant crowd of penguins storming Torgersen Island. The binoculars were set up in the galley all day as station members gathered and observed the masses of penguins romping across the ice and settling on Torgersen.

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Joe and Deneb, departure day Austin and Bethany lowering the plankton net Bethany and Iva collecting water samples from different depths Minke whales visit us while sampling
Adelie rookery
Lowering plankton net
Water collection
Minke whales

The early half of the week was spent beginning the long elaborate process of preparing for our departure. We leave Palmer station in only four weeks. Iva and Deneb are working closely with logistics to ensure safe travels for the many samples we have worked tirelessly to collect during the field season- special thanks to Judy for her help with the preparation. Austin and I have been carefully organizing the data we have accumulated. It is important that all data and notes the two of us have taken are readable and understandable so that Deneb and Joe can interpret our work for future analysis in Austin and my absence.

We planned to begin 24- hour at 4-hour increment fluorometry sampling of the next group of cultures as part of the ongoing light adaptation experiment on Monday. However, DT3 and DT10, respectively, were giving too low a response to begin. DT3 and DT11 are both similarly shaped pennate diatoms. DT11 is much smaller in size and both have yet to be identified to the species level. DT10- Proboscia inermis- is long and slender. We allowed a few more days for DT3 and 10 to catch up to DT11. However, it appears from both their continued low response on the fluorometer as well as from their abysmal growth rates (see graph below) that DT3 and DT10 may be more light-dependent diatoms than DT11. Right now, all cultures are operating under 4 layers of screening that block out about 95% of light. We began 24 hour monitoring on Friday with the prediction that DT3 and DT10 will begin to flourish into log phase once a layer of screen is removed and more light is allowed to penetrate.

Cell Culture graph


We continued through the week taking daily and weekly regular aquarium sampling until we were finally able to head out boating on Friday. Sampling was picture perfect. Apart from not being able to reach Station E -due to ice conditions (we sampled more close to Station C)- we collected high-density plankton samples and were visited by some curious and particularly charismatic wildlife. A group of gentoo penguins (plus one adelie) visited our zodiac. They were frantically bobbing in and out of the water –porpoising- around our boat as we dropped our PUV instrument to measure UV attenuation through the water column. About 15-20 minutes later, a pod of about four whales (we think Minke whales) also paid us a visit (see pictures). It was quite humbling to be collecting plankton in the presence of such gentle giants.

The team took advantage of Friday’s weather conditions and indulged in a well-deserved afternoon trip over to Torgersen Island. The island was crowded with adelie penguins all bustling about in the company of elephant seals. We had the unique opportunity to witness many exciting adelie activities- nest building (using pebbles), pebble stealing, and courtship. Their demeanor was utterly hilarious and playful. A few would waddle right over to you, wings flapping, and longingly look up as if to invite you to join the rookery. Check out the photos page to view some glamour shots of the adelie penguins.

With all the exciting happenings of this week, the B4-66 team continues to form unique and remarkable Antarctic memories. We hope to report new and more frequent wildlife encounters as the season continues to shift over our last four weeks.

-Bethany Goodrich


Field Report

Week 12, October 18-24, 2011

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.

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Joe and Deneb, departure day Taking the Polar Plunge! Lounging seals with pup Prepping the Zodiac
Deneb and Joe
Polar plunge
Seals with pup
Prepping the Zodiac


Field DataAs 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, check out the Boating Map below. 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.
Palmer boat mapBoating 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 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 on the videos page. 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.

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

-Bethany Goodrich


Field Report

Week 11, October 11-17, 2011

This was a busy and very successful week for the group. We continued our light adaptation experiment on cultures and sampled three times from Zodiac. And given that it was my second to last week here at Palmer things were incredibly busy for me. We collected a lot of great data. On Monday Deneb, Iva and Austin went to station E to collect water and tow the plankton net for RNA concentrations, fluorometry measurements and species identification.

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Sushi Gel Excalibur ice Palmer Station group photo
Sushi - yum!
Gel
Excalibur Ice
Palmer Station Group Photo

Tuesday was a repeat of Monday but this time it was Deneb, Joe, Bethany and we were joined by Phil Spindler who is the Palmer Station Lab Supervisor and general all around great guy. He is done here for a short time and given the weather was not able to do ANY boating so we invited him along. It was a spectacular day – clear and calm with little ice…in fact, it was so calm and it was low tide that we were able to pass by the sunken Bahia Paraiso. The Bahia was an Argentine Transport ship that ran aground near Palmer Station in the Austral Summer of 1989. The ship sank after all passengers and crew were safely evacuated but the ship spilled about 200,000 gallons of fuel.  (http://www.antarcticmarc.com/bahia.html).

Wednesday was also a busy day as we had experiment sampling at 0900 and 2100 and a weekly time-series measurement. As well, the Laurence M. Gould arrived – that is my ride home.  We were greeted with people and freshies; the station was hopping. On Thursday there was more ice and we were only able to get to Station B. Deneb, Austin and I did the sampling and towing. Another incredibly enjoyable day on the water- and, I think, it will turn out to be my last day of boating during this field season.

Friday was an incredibly exciting day – I was able to do a live video tele conference with the Dilworth STEM academy (a middle school in Sparks Nevada) from around Palmer Station. It was incredibly cool. The kids gathered in the auditorium and I ran around station with a computer/webcam. I started up on the balcony of our GWR building and overlooked the labs, the LMG and the glacier and gave a brief introduction. Then I went to the Bio building because it was pretty cold out. We toured through the kitchen, overlooked the boathouse, went through the labs and then headed into my office. The kids then asked questions for about 20 minutes. It was a great experience. I really look forward to returning to the school to meet and work with them. Capping off an incredible day was a sushi surprise party for Clair (see photos). Keith made sushi and the winter group surprised her up in the Terra Lab. It was a lot of fun and delicious.

Saturday we had another sampling extravaganza at 0900 and 2100. In between that we participated in station cleanup, station meeting and yet another incredible dinner by our cooks – Marci, Keith and our newest cook Francis – as Keith is leaving after spending the entire winter here.  All in all it was a great week- the end of which began my countdown to finish everything up before the boat leaves on the 20th of October.


Field Report

Week 10, October 5-10, 2011

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.

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Walking on the ice Working at the ice hole ctenophore October sun
Walking on the ice
Working at the ice hole
Ctenophore
October sun

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. 

Figure 1 graph

Figure 1 (click image to enlarge)

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.

Sampling on Ice Video

Record ID:30 does not exist!


Field Report

Week 9, September 28-October 4, 2011

By the end of this week it was a frustrating 15 days since we were on a Zodiac sampling our stations. Continued calm winds and cold conditions made for a frustrating week of laboratory work. The highlight of the week was the quality of data we were collecting from a controlled light adaptation experiment on 3 different species of diatoms. Bethany is making a video to convey some of this…that will be far more entertaining than a written report of the information. We continued to collect samples from the aquarium, maintain our weekly record of the size fraction distribution of chlorophyll and sample our light adaptation experiment daily. Joe also wrote a guest blog post about a recent paper- you can read that here.

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Penguin tracks Iced in Palmer Station Night sky The LMG leaving station
Penguin tracks
Go away ice
Night sky
The LMG departs

The highlight of the week was receiving a new set of questions and comments from the students of the Dilworth STEM academy. We’ll actually be teaching a class with them from Antarctica next Friday, October 14. I have not quite decided what we are going to talk about but it is going to be exciting. I’ll be on a laptop that I’ll carry around to various parts of the station.

Phytoguy AnswersA few weeks ago I posted a question buried deep in a field report – how many gallons of water are in 625 m3? Our first correct answer was from David Lee. CONGRATULATIONS DAVID. He wins a Palmer Station baseball cap and an opportunity to name our “zodiac” the next time we head out sampling. 

Head over to our Students Ask Page to read my answers to the kids of Dilworth.


Field Report

Week 8, September 19-September 27, 2011

Week 8…amazing that two months have flown by- and yet we still have so much to do. This was unfortunately a week dominated not by boating but by weather, ship excitement, and a little bit of stir crazy. The Laurence M. Gould (the ship that brought us down here) arrived last weekend for the winter to summer crew changeover. The station was very busy and our station population went up by more than a third. The station activity dealt with three primary issues: 1) Station turnover- passing jobs from one person to another; 2) Offload of cargo and fuel for the next 6 months (see the energy and power video); 3) transfer to the ship of waxy fuel- fuel that isn’t suitable for burning in our generator and power plant. The real story this week was some awesome weather that kept a lot of people busy clearing snow, securing gear and trying to stay warm.

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Windrose plot
Average wind gusts
Figure 1. Windrose plot
Figure 2. Average wind gusts.

Last Sunday was the last day we were able to get out boating…a great trip out to Station E for sample collection and measurements.  And then the ice came back and it got cold. So, for the rest of the report talk of the weather will do. Figure 1 is called a windrose plot. It shows data from our wind speed and direction instruments here on station. The bigger the pieces of pizza in the graph the more time the wind has spent coming from that direction. The blue slices mostly around the north directions are time at high wind speeds. At Palmer Station most of our weather, wind and most of the strong wind speeds are out of the North. Winds out of the South are not nearly as frequent. Wind speeds from our latest storm regularly were above 50mph gusting to 80 and were out of the north and NE. You can see the large increase in average wind gust since last week in the graph in Figure 2. These data don’t even include yesterday when things were really crazy but we’ve included a video of Austin touring the station during the snowstorm. Enjoy.

Record ID:29 does not exist!

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Figure 3. Air temperature plot Figure 4a. Plot of light intensity Figure 4b. Light intensity plot, 9-23
Figure 3. Air temperature plot
Figure 4a. Light intensity plot, 9-11
Figure 4b. Light intensity plot, 9-23

Our first six weeks on station have been marked by variable but cold weather and mostly calm conditions- perfect for ice formation. In figure 3 we've plotted the air temperature at Palmer Station since our arrival. There is little warming- just lots of ups and downs. The largest change we’ve seen since arriving is a large increase in day length and light intensity. Figure 4a is a plot of light intensity measured throughout the day on August 11th shortly after our arrival. Notice the amplitude (maximum height) and width (day length) of the plot. (If you are wondering why the times look "off" that is because we use "universal" or Greenwich mean time for all our instruments- that avoids any problems with daylight savings changes and allows us to sync all instruments to a very accurate time server.)  On August 11th the maximum light (right around solar noon) was only 120 μmol photons m-2 s-1. Micro mole photons per meter squared per second is the measure of the quantity of light. In figure 4b the same data are plotted for this past Friday, September 23. Light at solar noon increases to almost 700 μmol photons m-2 s-1.

In our videos section there is also a great video of Deneb talking about our plankton nets.


Field Report

Week 7, September 12-September 18, 2011

You may ask (as I am doing right now), why write a field report every week when you are doing the same thing over and over again? That’s a good question. Imagine me one year from now sitting in my office in Reno, analyzing data and trying to decide what samples to perform transcriptome sequencing; I’ll have to reconstruct the weather, the ice conditions, the species composition of the water and how well the cells were doing. As well I’ll have to know if anything went wrong in the lab while we were processing samples or if anything unusual happened while collecting the sample. That is where all the notes, logs, and field reports come in…they help us reconstruct the field season when we are working back home, writing papers or deciding what to do next.  And so, reluctantly but necessarily I report on last week. It doesn’t even feel like a week since we’ve been going straight since last Sunday; this was an intense 8 days.

Monday- Still stymied by ice inside the barrier of Bonaparte Point and Torgeson Island (Insert Map here) we continued to sample at Station A. Monday was a pile everyone in the Zodiac day as the entire B-466 group was out on the water enjoying being away from station.

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Photos 1-3 below by Iva
Boating in the Zodiac Rocks above the water Two people in the Zodiac Map of boating area, unofficial use
Out on the open water
A rocky shore
In the Zodiac
The boating area, (not for official use)

Tuesday- Was more of the same (see what I mean). But Joe and Deneb went and left the rest of the group behind to work on lab stuff. We anxiously awaited open water so Austin, Bethany and Iva could learn boating 2 and be able to go out with us.

Wednesday was a catch up in the lab day…Joe coded analysis schemes for the fluorometer and even spent time thinking about data and what the story was so far for this field season. Deneb, prodded by Joe for stats on who was in the water and in what number, was constantly on the microscope trying to catch up with her samples. Austin and Bethany ran chlorophyll samples, updated logs, cleaned, set up a new experiment in the outdoor aquarium tank, made movies for education and outreach and started learning how to do cell counts with Deneb so they could monitor some lab experiments we started running. Iva continued her mastery of the molecular lab by generating incredible amounts of high quality RNA for sequencing.

Thursday the weather got nasty and there were high hopes for open water when we woke up Friday morning. On Thursday Deneb, Austin and Bethany rigged a new net to cover our outdoor tank for a large volume experiment that was thwarted last week by too much snow and Ice.

Friday was a great, full day. We woke up to open water and immediately went into full gear. Joe and Deneb packed the Zodiac for a complete sampling run at Station E. We collected water at 5, 10, 20 and 40m. We towed the plankton net at three discrete depths, made light measurements and did a CTD profile. While we were doing that the rest of the gang was off in another Zodiac with Neal and Gram completing the requirements of the boating 2 course so they could sample without us. (There must be at least two people in a zodiac who have completed boating two.) In the boating two course you learn to drive a zodiac, perform man overboard exercises (Gram was kind enough to get in the water with an immersion suit on), drive around the various islands in the Palmer boating area to become familiar with emergency caches, landing sites and places to seek refuge if the weather or ice gets bad. Now it is time to put Austin, Bethany and Iva to work on the Zodiacs! Hooray!  We returned after a day on the water to complete our house mouse duties and enjoy a well-deserved night of relaxation.

Video of Gram taking the plunge.

Record ID:26 does not exist!

Saturday was a busy day. Austin, Iva and Deneb went out to Station E and collected water and did more plankton towing. Upon their return and after sample processing Joe and Bethany went out to Station B to gather more samples for fluorescence work. Another productive day made possible by teamwork (and good weather!).

Iva’s re-cap of week #7

7th week was very busy and productive. On Monday and Tuesday water was collected from station A (ice still present, therefore yoyo samples collected), on Tuesday and Thursday water was collected from the aquarium. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday water was collected from station E; this time ice was not a limiting factor and we were able to tow the plankton net at three different depths (15, 30 and 40 m). The biomass from the outside stations looks great, we are getting more than 1 pellet from each net tow. One sample from each net tow or yoyo will be used for RNA extraction and the rest is stored in RNA later.

On Friday, Austin, Bethany and I finally received Boating II training, which entails learning how to prepare zodiac for a “trip”, how to drive the boat, how to “dock” on an island, how to rescue a man overboard as well as improving overall orientation and navigation abilities in the area of Palmer station waters.


Field Report

Week 6, September 5-September 11, 2011

Week 6. Where did you go? I am only now writing this report; it is Tuesday- normally I like to finish the recap Sunday night. Time evaporates in the field – how brief and fleeting our allotment of it is to paraphrase a Marcus Aurelius quote. Last week we sampled on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, had an instrument break after less than two hours of use, had a visit from the RVIB (Research Vessel Icebreaker) Nathaniel B. Palmer (see photos above) and despite all this managed to get through the week without too much other grief. But seemed hectic and stressful from my perspective- probably had something to do with a $25,000 instrument not working and having to make a less than ideal contingency plan.

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Nathaniel B. Palmer Nathaniel B. Palmer
Nathaniel B. Palmer
Nathaniel B. Palmer

Long field seasons are marathons, they require stamina, persistence and a bit of stubbornness. Fieldwork is often not glamorous as we tend to do things over and over again to ensure our ideas and our data have reasonable fidelity.  Once we leave there is no coming back to fix a mistake or re-collect a forgotten sample. Fieldwork and parts of science, in general (like in perpetuity grant writing), remind me of Macbeth’s realization that he is carried through life almost mechanically to the beat of time. Day in and day out we sometimes do follow an exact script. The culmination of this realization for Macbeth occurs after Lady Macbeth dies (just not in Antarctica). Macbeth speaks the famous Shakespearean soliloquy that I was forced to memorize in 10th grade:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
(Shakespeare’s Macbeth Act 5)

You, dear reader, do not need to comment on whether our science is a tale told by an idiot- signifying nothing. We hope not! In fact, our data are looking very good but it has been a struggle recently (as it always is with remote field work) to get everything operating ideally at the same time! This tests patience, creativity and how good you are at “winging it”. Like all good tales our week starts and ends brilliantly.

Monday was “our day”. Perfect sampling at Station E- our ideal station with deep blue water- full of diatoms. (I bet Shakespeare never thought his words would be used in a field report with the word Diatom!).  Iva got some incredible RNA out of these samples and we have bench top fluorescence measurements and great microscopy from Deneb.

Quiz questionTuesday we saw more ice move in and were only able to make it to station A where we employed a yo-yo sample collection method since we were unable to tow nets at fixed depths.  With this method we are able to pass the net over about 625 m3 of water. First person under the age of 15 to calculate how many gallons of water are in 625 m3 and email the answer to us: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. gets to name our boat for a day and gets a Palmer Station baseball cap.

Wednesday we were iced in as the temperature dropped significantly the night before so we spent time in the lab, organizing data and analyzing data (yay!).  Joe spent the majority of the day trying to figure out what was wrong with one of his fluorometers and won’t write anything more about it because it would hardly be constructive.

Thursday the station received a large orange guest for about two hours - the icebreaker Nathaniel B. Palmer got very close to Palmer (the ship is too big to dock at our pier), we exchanged cargo, a passenger and they gave us fresh vegetables (a welcomed treat) and were gone (their entire visit is condensed into a time lapse movie on the videos page). B-466 followed the Palmer out to Station A and sampled the water after the ship left; we got more great samples. 

Friday was spent cleaning the lab from three intense days of fieldwork, organizing and analyzing data and prepping for a big experiment we started this week. Well, that’s at least what I think happened.

Saturday morning we fractionated more water (divided up into different size classes), made Chlorophyll measurements and continued prepping the big experiment. Joe spent a lot of time writing R scripts. Saturday afternoon was station meeting and a big cleanup. Then, Joe and Deneb hosted cocktail hour as a small way to thank everyone at Palmer Station who works so hard to make this the best place on Earth to do fieldwork. Salute!


Field Report

Week 5, August 28-September 4, 2011

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.

In the boat, using the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth Station E Penguin Iceberg
On the water, using the CTD
Station E
A penguin seen while B466-P was out on the water
A "dirty" iceberg

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.

Field DataFriday 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.


Field Report

Week 4, August 21-28, 2011

Busy week.  A lot of progress was made on all fronts- science, logistics and data analysis. Once again the collaborative environment at Palmer Station made work possible under less than ideal sampling conditions. Specifically, we thank Bede McCormick and Steve Sweet for help modifying an instrument cable for fieldwork and for troubleshooting software/hardware problems. 

Monday we continued with our contingency plan sampling routine as ice conditions precluded boating and ice travel. Austin and Bethany, sampling and filtering experts now, concentrated 400 and 500 liters of seawater in the morning and afternoon respectively. Those samples were processed for RNA by IVA and cell counts and species composition by Deneb. Chlorophyll a concentrations remain low but cell counts are beginning to creep up.

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Graham Colegrove and Steve Sweet in ice climbing exercise
Austin filtering seawater
View of the ice
Watching the gel
GSAR performed by Graham Colegrove and Steve Sweet
 Austin filtering seawater
Brrrr
Watching the gel

On Tuesday, we finally got our wish and a storm system blew the ice out. We (Deneb and Joe) went out to complete boating II requirements with Neal and Matt and attempted some sampling - weather permitting. However, we confronted heavy first-year ice on the north side of Christine Island that made boating difficult. We spent about 90 minutes driving slowly in ice and then found open water to complete the rest of boating II- a requirement for anyone to operate a zodiac at Palmer Station. The goal was to take B466 out in the afternoon to sample either LTER Station B or E. Weather degraded quickly and we haven’t seen open water since that morning.

Field DataWednesday was another aquarium room intake sampling day where we concentrated 850L of seawater and started a 48-hour incubation of the concentrate under 50% ambient light conditions. Maximum light levels we’ve “seen” this past week were around 500 μmol photons m-2 s-1 at local noon – most days maximum was ~ 200.  Even at 50% ambient light the phytoplankton (mostly diatoms but now some single cells of phaeocystis) from under the ice experienced some photoinhibition- evidenced by drops in Fv/Fm and the cross section of photosystem II- the latter decrease was particularly evident on August 26- nearly 40 hours into the experiment. These changes were not evident in the phytoplankton beneath the ice. (See the Field Data page for figures)

Friday was an exciting day of more filtering (only 450 l), the breakdown of the 48 hour experiment, and overall science jubilation as the data coming off the FRRF looked pretty good. Iva spent the week (among other things) modifying our RNA isolation protocol- we’ve now switched to a dual isolation approach using a preliminary precipitation in lithium chloride followed by a salt/isopropanol precipitation - this results in better yields and better handles the significant amount of “other material” (e.g. detritus, dead cells, sand, etc) that we see when filtering and concentrating so much water.

Saturday B466 caught up on our notes, data processing, log maintenance and we performed a chl a size fraction analysis to confirm the microscope observations recorded by Deneb. On Saturday we also attended the weekly station meeting and participated in station clean-up known, affectionately, as “house mouse”. Saturday night most of Palmer Station participated in a game called “the name game” which was like 20 questions.  I think everyone had a lot of fun. We also played Wii bowling and tennis. Neal is a very good Wii bowler but I’m pretty sure I could beat him on regular lanes.


Field Report

Week 3, August 14-21, 2011

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.

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Taking the Zodiac out Ice in retreat Deneb in the lab The team
 Taking the Zodiac out
 Ice in retreat
Deneb in the lab
The team

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.


Field Report

Week 2, August 7-12 2011

Our first week at Palmer Station was pretty hectic- between settling into our bedrooms, our lab, becoming acquainted with the station and adjusting to the night/day cycles here on the island we have all been working nonstop. The station and its crew are incredibly accommodating, streamlining our transition here and quickly making us feel at home in such an alien and distant setting.

Moving into our lab required the many mundane tasks associated in any move- unpacking, cleaning, and organizing- as well as laboratory tasks such as autoclaving glassware for use with molecular work. Joe set up a fluorometer in the aquarium room to start collecting data on Arthur Harbor water and Deneb dropped her first plankton net of the project into an aquarium tank. Preliminary microscope and fluorometry work on the samples collected from station indicate very low phytoplankton abundances. This is not surprising given the low ambient light levels and short days. We hope if the winds remain calm and the ice stable that growth will occur in the ice and just below it.

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Sunset from the LM Gould Sunset, Antarctica
 Sunset from the LM Gould
 Sunset, Antarctica

The ice surrounding the station is far too thick to send zodiacs far out to start collecting samples from Site E (two miles away)- where we will be gathering samples at various depths throughout the season. However, we were able to collect ice samples around the L.M. Gould (the ship that took us here). A zodiac was lowered off the side of the ship and Joe and Deneb- with the help of boating staff- were able to break free a few slabs of ice to run samples from. As I write, Deneb, Joe, Matt (the station boating coordinator), Neil (research associate) and Eddie (the former boating coordinator) are out collecting water samples in the brief wake/break in the ice the Gould created as she left this morning.

In the meantime, Austin and I are improving our comfort level with filtration systems in preparation for the slew of samples we anticipate processing in the coming months. Iva, among many other tasks, has been preparing a series of buffer solutions to be used in DNA/RNA extraction.

On a different and less science oriented note- the food on station is utterly divine, the views stunning, and the people are incredible. We especially thank all the members of Palmer Station who made this first, very challenging and hectic week much easier.

Bethany Goodrich


Field Report

Week 1, August 4, 2011

The Laurence M Gould left the dock of Punta Arenas Chile August 1 at 1000 hours. We experienced good weather, light seas and light winds to the Straights of Magellan and into the Drake Passage. Yesterday (August 3 1800 hours) we came upon a mix of brash and pancake ice at latitude -059.30. The ship's engine de-icing mechanism was turned on and we have slowly (6 knots) been making our way through increasingly heavy pancake ice. As of 0520 this morning (August 4) we are at -060.40. The ice and breeze out of the SE make for almost imperceptible seas which partially makes up for the slow progress. We continue to make measurements of temperature, salinity, pCO2, nutrients and variable Chlorophyll fluorescence as we cross the Drake Passage. I hope the next report I write is from Palmer Station, Antarctica. Stay Tuned.

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Puntas Arenas Chile Puntas Arenas, Chile Pancake Ice, August 3 Puntas Arenas Chile
Puntas Arenas, Chile
Puntas Arenas, Chile
Pancake Ice, Drake Passage
Pancake Ice, LM Gould

- Joe Grzymski

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