From Texel to Rothera
We are guests on a British Antarctic Survey (BAS) base called Rothera, situated on the Western Antarctic Peninsula, and we are here as part of a larger programme funded by NWO. This programme has involved bringing 4 laboratory containers to Rothera, each with different specifics, to allow Dutch scientists to perform marine research complementary to the British research going on here. The lab containers are placed in a docking station that keeps them free of snow and with extra space around them for storage.
The Bonner Lab (left) and Dirck Gerritsz Lab (right) at the start of the 2013/14 season.
According to the statistics, as well as to those people who have been here more often, global climate change (particularly global warming) is noticeable here. Our project, with the acronym ANTPHIRCO, is all about Antarctic phytoplankton in a changing world and its consequences for the lower pelagic food web. More specifically, our project intends to study in a detailed and synergistic manner how viruses control Antarctic algal production and composition, in comparison to the grazers that feed on the algae. Furthermore, we will study the resulting consequences for the nutrition and overwintering behaviour of key zooplankton grazers. Performing the research for this project are myself, Tristan Biggs (PhD) and Dorien Verheyen (research assistant) under the supervision of Prof. Corina Brussaard from the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ). This project is funded for two austral summers and we are just beginning our second and final summer of research here.
So here we are again, a year later and making the preparations for another field season in the Dirck Gerritsz Lab at Rothera on Adelaide Island on the Western Antarctic Peninsula. I wonder how the base has fared over the Winter……..
It has been a hectic summer for the ‘Virus’ project, trying to get enough of the samples analysed from last year to see what experiments worked and what did not, and also packing more equipment, all in time for the August 26th 2013 deadline by which all kit has to be received in Cambridge to go on the ship South, first stopping at the Falklands and then being flown in to Rothera towards the end of November.
We have been receiving monthly updates from Amber Annett, the overwinterer for the Dutch marine science projects, who informed us that over winter there were roughly 3 periods of fast ice, where sea ice would form in Ryder bay and stay for about a month until strong winds would break it up and blow it out of the bay. That has meant it has been difficult over the winter to obtain regular ice core and/or seawater samples from the main sampling site (RaTS 1) as quite often there has been too much ice to put the boats in the water but the ice is not thick enough to travel across by ski-doo.
For myself, the excitement has been slowly building over the summer with brief moments of trepidation over the various problems that I know will still exist on my arrival. For Dorien however, I see the excitement in her eyes about the unknown adventure she is about to embark upon and thought it would be nice to pass writing the blog to her.