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.
Upcoming special issue on Polar Night biology to be published in Polar Biology with guest editor Ole Jørgen Lønne.
Morata et al on the importance of early food input on benthos (DOI link)
Morata and Søreide on the effect of light and food on the metabolism of Calanus glacialis (DOI link)
Brown et al on the importance of ice algae as food source (DOI link)
As part of the Marine Night project, we are preparing for the UiT PhD student that will start working in January 2014 within Unit 3. The main aim of this work will be related to the distribution of blue mussels on Svalbard. The last year we had blue mussels on both the Kongsfjorden and Rijpfjorden moorings - both were successfully recovered and all mussels survived. The fact that they all survived, has two important implications. First of all, we are now able to study growth and development from three independent 'populations': wild natural in Kongsfjorden and two from the moorings in Kongsfjorden and Rijpfjorden. Secondly, and equally important, is the fact that the mussels survived the winter conditions in Rijpfjorden with -1.8C over a period for at least five months. This implies at least that temperature is not the regulating survival, and hence that other factors are limiting their northward distribution.
Read the article in Svalbardposten here (in Norwegian).
The Atlantic spiny lumpsucker is one of the slowest fishes in the ocean. Yet it's main food is one of the fast swimming marine invertebrates. It is almost as if you were to discover that a turtle was feeding exclusively on leopards. How is this possible? The answer is related to the core objectives of the Circa project - diel vertical migration of zooplankton, which might become hyperbenthic when performing deep diel migrations during daytime. Read the recently published scientific article in full here.
Little lumpsucker has also found it's way into mainstream media. A recently publishes outreach article in the Norwegian Troms regional newspaper (printed and online) has drawn some attention to the mysterious creature. Download the PDF here or check out the online version here. Picture: J. Kråkenes
In January 2014, the Mare Incognitum projects will run a joint field campaign in Kongsfjorden, Ny Ålesund, under the lead of Jørgen Berge. It will be the first of the two large campaigns for Marine Night, but all the other projects are participating in one way or another. In addition a newly established UNIS course (AB-334/834 Underwater robotics in the Arctic Polar Night) will be held in parallel. The Polar Night will for sure become alive when this massive campaign will engage. The early draft of the sampling event was heavily influenced by a distinct fear of the dark of some participants, but this could meanwhile be cured. Thus the second figures shows a more realistic summary.
Schematic of the scientific equipment and platforms used for the Mare Incognitum field campaign.
Boats from left to right: Ulla Rinmann for medium sized equiment, Helmer Hanssen for all large equiment and Polar cirkel (open boat) to deploy light equipment. Equipment / sensors left to right, MIK (Methot-Isaacs-Kidd net) for large zooplankton; AUV: Autonomous Underwater Vehicle; MPS (Multiple Plankton Sampler) for medium sized zoopkankton; VPR (Video Plankton recorder) for picture identification of migrating zooplankton; U-BAT for in situ measurements of bioluminescence; ADCP (Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler) for characterizing vertical migration patterns; AZFP (Acoustic Zooplankton Fish Profiler) for characterizing vertical migration pattern; LM (Light Meter and photon counter) for characterizing the light climate; CTD (Conductivity-Temperature-Depth) sensor with water bottles for eater mass characterization; Sky Camera for taking pictures of the celestial dome; ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) for underwater installations and sampe collections; IR (infra-red) camera for both counting seabirds and safety (detecting polar bears as well as monitoring activities at sea)
Figures by Gerald Darnis
It appears that copepods do not sleep as deep and long as vi thought. An important part of the reproduction occurs in the middle of the winter,during the Polar Night. This also means that we have to change our understanding of the vulnerability of the ecosystem in wintertime. Read more about the activities of the CLEOPATRA II team here and in a recently published article in KLIMA (PDF) - both in Norwegian.