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.
Some days ago the last of the 4 Svalbard year-round moorings, deployed in Rijpfjorden, was successfully retrieved during a UNIS cruise. All instruments were happy, and even the blue mussles, deployed in a small cage, were still alive. So, good news for the entire mooring campaign. All moorings are serviced and set out again for another year of data aquisition. You can find a detailed setup under the Mooring setup link.
In a trial sampling for yet another Mare Incognitum project, named "SpitsEco", which soon will be presented on this page, the researchers on R/V Helmer Hanssen were sampling for Leptoclinus maculatus in Isfjorden. Sampling was conducted both by grab and trawl. Main purpose was to test if grab sampling for this species is possible (which it turned out to be), so that it can be sampled during a winter campaign through a whole in the ice, and to collect a larger amount of individuals by trawling for stomach anaylsis. The entire campaign so far yielded it more than 200 individuals which Carl Ballantine dissected and froze for later analysis.
During the recent UNIS student cruise of the AB202 course, three Mare Incognitum researchers (Jørgen Berge, Finlo Cottier and technician Daniel Vogedes) used the opportunity to recover the observatories which were set out a year ago in Adventfjorden, Kongsfjorden and Billefjorden (locations see map). This completes another year in a decade-long time series of deployments of these observatories. Data from the instrumentation will be used in all Mare Incognitum projects, partly as background information and partly as main data source together with zooplankton net tows and other in-situ sampling.
A fourth observatory (Rijpfjorden) will be recovered during the forthcoming UNIS AB821 student cruise.
The data is maintained in a database at our partners at the Scottish Association for Marine Science - SAMS. All historical data the observatories is available for download here.
Mare Incognitum - mission statement
‘Mare Incognitum’ is the umbrella for several research projects exploring one of the least known marine ecosystems of the planet – the Arctic. We are situated in the Arctic and have the unique opportunity to study this exceptional marine system year round, including the Polar Night.
Mission statements of the Mare Incognitum projects
We aim to obtain a better knowledge of Arctic zooplankton physiology and life history strategies to predict the degree of match/mismatch of key biological processes at the base of the Arctic marine food web in a changing Arctic.
Diel Vertical Migration of zooplankton is the largest synchronised movement of biomass on the planet, and is a process generally steered by the diel change solar illumination. In the Arctic, with its unique light climate, this process have recently been shown to be ongoing during both the polar day and solar night. In this project we aim at unravelling the controlling factors behind vertical migration of zooplankton as well as its ecological significance.
MicroFun makes use of recent advances in molecular technologies to investigate the diversity and function of Svalbards microbial eurayotic organisms. The project is aimed and UNIS and combines both marine and terrestrial research and researchers.
One of the most important misconceptions concerning Arctic marine ecosystems is the widely held assumption that the dark polar night is best compared with a biological dessert void of any activity. We aim at exploring the Arctic marine ecosystem beyond the boundaries of darkness, focusing both on pelagic, sympagic and benthic organisms.
Ctenophores are an important component of the pelagic community often neglected in zooplankton research, leading to grossly oversimplified and misunderstood understanding on their diversity and ecological role, as well as biased views of ecosystem functioning. We aim to obtain a better knowledge of the biodiversity of marine ctenophores in Norway, from North Sea to the High Arctic.
GrønBille is dedicated to analyse long-term data on variability, patterns and trends in the physical environment affecting the timing of blooms in Billefjorden and Grønnfjorden
The main objective of this project is to study the timing of life history events of a key fish species Leptoclinus maculatus. During this project, we will aim specifically at a fish known to be of high importance as prey for seabirds and larger fish, while at the same time being a species for which we know surprisingly little regarding its life history. The project will first of all aim at elucidating the seasonal dynamics and timing of reproduction, and we will relate our findings towards the environmental background data obtained from the two ongoing ocean observatories in Kongsfjorden an Rijpfjorden.
Big Black box has two main aims - to establish a synergetic cooperation between leading Norwegian and American research environments to ensure up to date and innovative science and education of today and tomorrows Arctic scientists and to establish new innovative molecular tools to identify and quantify the diet of arctic zooplankton.