Is there a stronger resilience to climate change in Arctic marine organisms than anticipated? These organisms have evoloved unique adaptations to survive strong seasonal changes which may make them less vulnerable. The CLEOPATRA II project focuses on the Arctic zooplankton physiology and life history to predict the degree of match/mismatch of key biological proecesses in a changing Arctic. Read more in the recent outreach article in Science and Technology.
In the beginning of June the Cleopatra II team held a project meeting at UNIS in Longyearbyen. During three intense days all participants presented their work in progress – from zooplankton community analysis, lipids and stable isotopes, life history strategies to mortality risks and modelling. All in all it was a very successful meeting and several publications have been outlined. You can find the full meeting agenda here and the participant list here. Group picture by Eva Therese Jenssen, UNIS.
CLEOPATRA II has recently been in the field again, where also a combined UNIS master/PhD course was heavily involved. During May this year 19 master and PhD students from 11 different nations were introduced to the field sampling techniques in CLEOPATRA II during the 1 week long field work in Van Mijenfjorden, Svalbard in the course AB-330: Ecosystems in ice covered waters. The students got hands on experience in all the sampling gear and lab work which was carried out during the regular field campaigns. From ice cores to sediment samples a whole range of parameters were measured, resulting in lots of data both for the course and for CLEOPATRA II. In all campaigns a portable ROV was used to prepare under-ice sampling and for visual inspection of the under-ice surface. You can have a look a some footage from the ROV deployments at three different fjords and check out the variation in under-ice surface properties here:
Jasmine Nahrgang and coauthors have recently published a paper in PLOS ONE on the life history, reproductive strategy and effects of climate change on polar cod (Boeogadus saida). First of all, the paper for the first time ever document the existence oft a gender specific reproductive strategy in polar cod. Secondly, the paper compare wild populations from two fjords (Rijfjorden and Kongsfjorden) influenced by Arctic and Atlantic water masses, respectively, in order to predict how a future warmer Arctic will influence the ecological key species. Read the original research paper from PLOS ONE or some of the media coverage on the paper (below). The work is part of the Polaristaion project (http://site.uit.no/polarisation/), but is also connected to Circa.
Dagens Næringsliv 31.05.2014: Polartorsk på tallerkene (PDF)
Adressa.no 02.12.2014: Mangfold i fare (online)
As part of the Marine Night project and in connection with the polar night cruises organised by Arctos and UiT during the last successive four winters, Stig Falk-Petersen and colleges have recently published a paper on the connection between the distribution of Bowheads, climate change and oceanographic processes typical for periods with little sea ice. The title of the work is “At the Rainbow end”, and deals with the massive upwelling processes dominating the Arctic shelf regions that are only able to occur during periods of reduced ice cover. The main hypothesis of the paper is that this upwelling fuel a increased primary and secondary production, and literately that this was the very basis for the existence of the large populations of bowheads that once dominated the Whalers Bay region north of Svalbard. Read more about the findings both in the original scientific paper and through links to various media coverage of the work:
Outside the temperature is crawling up just above zero, and on Svalbard the sun will soon be continuously orbiting the sky. Here in Tromsø we still have a little while until the light have completely defeated the darkness, but no doubt the dark and hectic days of our polar night expedition in January seems long gone! However, just as the trolls have to retreat into their caves and borrows to hide away from the sunlight, so are many of us about to hide away in order to count, analyze, reflect and hopefully write up most of the exciting discoveries we made this season!
A few major dark moments (equivalent to highlights for those who do not focus on the polar night…)) of the season, listed in a strictly subjective way – many other results would no doubt warrant a place on this list!
- Werewolves are abundant! Kim Last is leading this work, in which we look at how the pelagic community is responding to lunar light. This will be one of the main endeavors during this spring, and we hope to have this finished by the early autumn.
- Presence of active phytoplankton in the water column. Eva Leu is leading this work, and will probably consider the season 2014 as a pilot season and prepare a more thorough study in 2015.
- Quantification of light in the dark. This was a major component of the underwater robotics and polar night biology course, and included several prototypes of various sensors. These pioneering measurements of biologically relevant light will be at the core of 2-3 manuscript currently in a preparatory phase.
- Last, but not the least – for the first time ever, stomachs of seabirds from the polar night have been collected and analyzed. Data from the limited dataset collected so far strongly indicate that at least the alcids were not starving…this will be continued in 2015!
Many more results and data would surely be worth mentioning and highlighting, these four examples were just some of the quite narrow-minded expedition leaders personal favorites. But all will be revealed in papers coming your way soon..! First in line is the polar night special issue in Polar Biology, so far with seven papers published online awaiting assignment to a printed volume (Morata et al 2014a and b, Brown et al 2014, Båtnes et al 2014, Webster et al 2014, Johnsen et al 2014 and Falk-Petersen et al 2014). There have also been a large variety of outreach activities, from radio interviews to a news article in an Australian newspaper. You can find all them on our publications and outreach page!
The dark lord Berge
Eva Leu of the Marine Night team published an article in the "Viten" section of the large Norwegian newspaper "Aftenposten" today. The article summarizes the activities and the mysteries of the Polar Night for the general public. You can find the article online at Aftenposten Viten here.
Marine Night team picture by Christopher Engås, Svalbardposten
The Marine Night campaign is right now successfully running in Ny-Ålesund/Kongsfjorden. A cruise with Helmer Hanssen is already finished, and now the main focus is on the activities carried out from the marine lab in Ny-Ålesund. Terrabytes of data have been produced by the various instruments and wait to be analysed - and published. You can follow the activities of the Marine Night team and the UNIS AB334/834 course on our own blog here: www.mare-incognitum.no/marinenight2014 and we also recommend the excellent blog by Amelia Travers, a participant of the course: http://gisandjournalism.weebly.com/blog.html
If you should wonder why there was a lack of new posts: There is no mobile phone coverage in Ny-Ålesund (and thus in Kongsfjorden), and because of all the surrounding mountains the satellite based ship Internet on Helmer Hanssen does not work either. During the cruise it was up to the cruise participants to write blogs (what they did), but due to the lack of Internet these posts could not be published before arrival in Ny-Ålesund. But now they are available!
Recently, both Forskning.no and Svalbardposten published two articles covering our December campaign and hunt for the werewolves. Below is a more personalised view on the campaign from one of it’s members - Dr Kim Last from the Scottish Association of Marine Science:
Into the night with lunartick zooplankton
“But are you sure those blobs are real?” is the only comment Jørgen Berg (project leader of the CIRCA project) makes after looking quizzically at the coloured data chart lying on the table in front of us. I fidget, the data was showing something that we hadn’t expected during the Polar Night with the “blobs” representing zooplankton that were apparently migrating in response to moonlight, not sunlight. “Probably” I say. Jorgen pauses and in typical Norwegian no-nonsense fashion says “well then, let’s go find out”? Little was I to know that I had inadvertently started a whole field campaign, all based on some coloured “blobs”!
For the last few years we have been studying zooplankton migrating up and down in the water in response to sunlight. Using acoustics, patterns are emerging that show very clear synchronised migrations in the autumn and spring but limited activity during the darkest months of December and January. Now, using new data analysis and visualisation techniques (normally associated with studying biological rhythms in flies, mice and humans) we are seeing patterns in zooplankton migration which are quite new. During the time of the full moon these small organisms appear to migrate with a new cycle, not the 24 hour cycle of the rising and setting of the sun which we are so familiar with, but one of the rising and setting of the moon, a lunar-day or lunidian cycle close to 25 hours!
The main aim of the field campaign this December is to go “fishing” during the time of the full and new moon with various types of nets and cameras to find out who is doing the migrating. Specifically how deep do they migrate, and how fast, and can they anticipate the rising and setting of the moon? To this end we also want to know if the zooplankton possess a biological clock? We already know that just about every animal and plant possesses an in-built clock, the best known of which is the circadian clock. Many of us are even familiar with its workings, or rather when it stops working so well when it becomes re-set during long-haul flights and we experience jet-lag as a consequence. So we can hypothesis that the migrating zooplankton may also have a clock. Therefore another aim of this trip is to catch some live zooplankton and study them in the lab under constant conditions without moonlight. If they still behave as though they were out in the sea by becoming active when they “think” the moon is up, then we will know that they possess a lunar clock. This would help explain how they manage to migrate to the surface from the dark ocean depths where currently our light sensors cannot detect any light.
Working in the Arctic during the polar night is no mean feat with total darkness 24 hours a day and often the thermometer falls to -20oC for weeks on end. Although Jørgen is a toughened Polar scientist, I am not, and as I sit here on the flight to Svalbard in December clutching my laptop with the infamous “blobs” I am experiencing just a little trepidation. Looking out the window of the plane to the north I can see the night stretching out in front of me, like a big heavy blanket, the last of the sunshine left behind somewhere over mainland Norway. I wonder perhaps whether my own clock may become a little dysfunctional over the next weeks without any form of solar re-setting and I look up and see the moon as only a silver sickle and wonder what is going on down there in the deep dark waters… well, it’s time to find out!
Kim S. Last
Scottish Association for Marine Science
The werewolf hunt of the CircA campaign started great. Everything worked out just fine – in our masterplan. Reality, as often, did not exactly follow our plan. An exhaustive list of the accumulated failures would be beyond the limits of this blog, but here is a little summary:
Our ship did not get it’s certificates in order, thus it was not allowed to leave the harbour and we had to organize a new ship on a 2 day’s notice. The company which shall not be named here which was to sell us a depth/height sensor did not manage to send it in 2 ½ months time, despite plenty of promises that they would do so. Even 2 days before departure, they still promised a delivery by plane on Sunday, which made us delay our departure by 8 hours. No need to mention that they messed it up. Finally at sea at 18h, the weather was not exactly on it’s best side. Some of us lost some food in the sea, others a WP3 codend. The VPR went on a strike after the first 2 minute deployment. The wire meter joined the strike, leaving us with no idea how deep the gear went. The deck was more slippery than the ice skating track of the upcoming Olympics. Disillusioned, we called the journey off and went back to the pier. After a good night sleep on solid ground we started a new try on day two, and this time everything was went as smooth as it could be. As we speak, we have approximately 15 GB of photos from the VPR (video plankton recorder), we have net samples and we have fun! And hopefully, among the 15giabytes of photos, we also have some pictures of the mysterious werewolves! You can find the preliminary cruise report from the first leg of the campaign here.
- Polar Night special issue - first online articles
- Marine Night in Svalbardposten
- Life's little mysteries!
- January 2014 - When the night will come alive
- Secrets of the winter hibernation
- 2013 mooring campaign - success!
- Gone fishing - The hunt for Leptoclinus maculatus
- Out of the dark: 3 all-year observatories recovered during UNIS cruise
- Mare at a glance