Monday, February 9, 2009

Out to Sea Again....

The time has flown by pretty fast and it's that time again to say goodbye to land. I'm off to the Antarctic (hopefully) day after tomorrow, though things on the dockside are going slowly and there is still a lot to do, and the wind picked up badly yesterday, so I wouldn't be surprised by a delay in leaving. Tomorrow though we all move onto the ship, so I'll loose the somewhat intermittent internet access of my hotel room and move onto emails twice a day beamed over by satellite.  

So i'm off to the Antarctic again, what am I doing this time? Well, it's much of the same, this cruise is the last in a series of 3 run by my colleague at the University of Hawaii and his collaborator in North Carolina. I yet again have a tag-along place on the cruise to collect my corals as long as I help out with all the other sampling going on. This cruise is going to be a busy one for me, it's the last one i'll have for a while down here, so i'm trying to do a lot of experiments all at once, just in case it's a really long time before I come back. So here are my cruise goals - 

1 - Collect Antarctic deep-water corals for seasonal reproduction studies. This gives me an idea of what these corals are doing around the year - think of a tree that only flowers in the spring, marine animals can be similar and only reproduce once a year, but if you only collect at one time of year, you could miss it entirely, so lots of times of year to get the seasons is really helpful and pretty hard to come by in the deep-sea which is expensive and hard to collect in. 

2 - Collect Antarctic deep-water corals for population genetics. I've been lucky enough to come across a couple of sites that we collect well over 100 individuals of the same species each time we sample, which is a great (and unusual) number to do some good population genetics on to see what the population structure is and connectivity across the Antarctic. This isn't something I am funded to do, just a pipe dream that I now happen to have the samples for and will keep until I can either a) get the money to do them myself, b) give them to someone who is interested in doing them or (preferably) c) get a postdoc or student funded to do them. They're great samples that are well worth collecting right for this future purpose. 

3 - Temperature experiments on Antarctic deep-water coral larvae. This is the big one. Last cruise I did some preliminary experiments looking at how different temperatures affected development of larvae (to simulate ocean warming that is happening at a fast rate in this part of the world) that gave kick ass results. So this cruise it's being ramped up and i'm extending the experiment for longer and with more larvae. I'll also be doing some initial experiments to simulate ocean acidification too, not sure how those will turn out, but the idea is to get some preliminary data on that for future proposal writing, so not as critical as the temperature experiments, but just as interesting. This is really the big one, as for this i'll be on my own, and i'll be doing as a side to the other things that are going on on the ship that I need to do as well (as my 'rent' so to speak for getting a place on the ship). Last time it took me over 20hrs to get enough larvae for the experiment working solid, and this time I need more and will be babysitting the experiment longer, so it's going to be more of a slog. I'm hoping i'll be faster as I have it more streamlined now, but i'll see how it goes. 

4 - Collecting and preserving other deep-water corals and anemones for future reproductive and genetic work. Every trawl brings up some interesting critters and it's important to catalogue and preserve things that could be of use to me, or to my colleagues, at a later date. 

So these are my goals for the next 6 weeks. It's a long one that to be honest i'm dreading, but i'm really excited about the larvae experiments, so i'm hoping it'll be worth it. I'll try and update on here as much as I can, no photo's i'm afraid (though maybe i'll get to upload some at Palmer Station), but i'll let you know how it's all going. 

1 comment:

bsa said...

Most impressive! This is one of the best feels I've gotten for your work. I hope all goes smoothly--I'm rooting for you. Six weeks is a long stretch!