2015-16: U.S. AMLR's 30th field season working in the peninsula!

The U.S. AMLR Program winter vessel survey is underway!

Week of August 23.... Stay tuned!  The vessel is heading to port!  

Week of August 14-22: Over the last week, we have moved sampling to the west Shelf which was covered in new ice, mostly pancake that formed over the last two weeks. Temperature continued to normalize and has ranged from -5 to -14 degrees. We completed most stations on the west shelf, and completed most of the stations north of Elephant Island. However, over the last 10 days multi-year ice from the Weddell Sea has entered the northeast area of Bransfield Strait, near Joinville Island. The ice floes are larger than islands, and have precluded our sampling in that area.

Krill larvae were found mostly over Elephant Island and the West Shelf, rather than within Bransfield Strait. Other species of note include Euphausia triacanthaEuphausia frigida, and Thysanoessa macrura. We still have not observed any large numbers of seals on the West Shelf or around the northern part of Elephant Island.

Preliminary estimates of krill biomass from acoustic surveys showed biomass ranged from ~500000 (CV 72%) tons on the west shelf, to more than 2.9 million  (CV 55%) tons in Bransfield Strait. Most biomass on the west shelf was found near shore running along the shelf. Simple biomass estimates (area X mean density) of krill within Bays in Gerlache Strait were, 181.0, 54,400.0, and 203,213.0 for Andvoord, Whilimena, and Hughes Bay, respectively.

Given the movement of ice into the area, we have had to re structure the last week of sampling. With the remaining time, we will now resample Bransfield Strait using acoustics and we will turn on the ADCP to give us information on the currents. This will also provide us with a dataset to examine noise removal algorithms and their effects on krill acoustic biomass estimates.

Week of August 7-13:  Conditions have been variable, with short intense storms and winds in excess of 50 knots. These have slowed the cruise somewhat as we waited for conditions to improve. Winds have shifted from predominately westerly to southerly, dropping the temperatures from a balmy -2, to -12, and increasing winds from 5 knots to over 50. Regardless we have completed sampling within the Gerlache and Bransfield Straits. Additionally we have been able to calibrate the echosounders; this will be needed to calculate biomass estimates for the ice free areas. Within Bransfield Strait, the lack of ice has kept Crabeater seal abundance very low, while Antarctic fur seals are hauling out on the ice and snow free beaches rather than staying in the water.

Krill concentrations within Bransfield Strait were similar to the patterns observed in previous years, but the lack of ice means that the amount of usable data for the acoustic estimates is much larger.  On several transects across the Bransfield, krill biomass formed a nearly continuous band (more than forty miles) with distinctly different patterns of aggregation between daytime (compact dense swarms, 40 to 400m) and night time (broader patches between 0 and 200 meters). Collection of krill, other euphausiids, and Antarctic zooplankton continued throughout the area; these specimens will be used for condition measures, metabolic and genetic analyses.

Conditions are expected to deteriorate over the next two days in the Elephant Island region, and we will shift our survey to the West shelf area, where conditions are expected to be more favorable.

Week of August 1-6: The US AMLR research team assembled in Punta Arenas, Chile, to commence the fifth and final winter survey to the South Shetland Islands, Antarctic Peninsula. Members of the Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division, along with contractors, students, academic partners, NGOs, and other international collaborators, loaded the ship and set up the laboratories on the RVIB Nathaniel Palmer.  The vessel left port on August 4th; conditions were mild with air temperatures in excess of 4º Celsius as they transited east through the Strait of Magellan, and south towards the Drake Passage. Conditions entering the Drake were also unseasonably mild (!), with temperatures above freezing for most of the crossing, and a northerly wind that ranged from 20 to 40 knots.  During the Drake crossing, expendable bathythermographs (aka XBTs) were dropped every 15 nautical miles (nmi), and drifters were deployed every degree of latitude. Two mid-Drake oceanographic stations (conductivity, temperature, depth measurements, aka CTDs) were completed to collect water for ongoing studies, and to ensure that all systems were functional.  We are presently 40 nmi from our first station on the AMLR grid, and we expect to start sampling in earnest mid afternoon of August 7th.

The Drake Side

Studying penguins, fur seals and more at Cape Shirreff

After a few travel challenges, the 2015 Cape Shirreff opening crew arrived in Punta Arenas, Chile on the 17th & 18th of October to begin the 2015/16 field season at the AMLR field station on Livingston Island.  AMLR researchers departed Punta Arenas for the Antarctic aboard the R/V Laurence M. Gould on 22 October.  Fortunately, a lull between low pressure systems allowed for relatively mild sea conditions while crossing Drake’s Passage. We arrived at Cape Shirreff on the morning of Monday 26 October.  Studies at the Cape will continue through until early March 2016.

Weekly reports are posted below.  

Weekly Sit Reps from Cape Shirreff study site
CS Sit Rep 1: Nov 2, 2015 
CS Sit Rep 2: Nov 9, 2015 
CS Sit Rep 3: Nov 16, 2015 
CS Sit Rep 4: Nov 23, 2015 
CS Sit Rep 5: Nov 30, 2015 
CS Sit Rep 6: Dec 7, 2015
CS Sit Rep 7: Dec 15, 2015 
CS Sit Rep 8: Dec 21, 2015 
CS Sit Rep 9: Dec 28, 2015 
CS Sit Rep 10: Jan 4, 2016 
CS Sit Rep 11: Jan 11, 2016 
CS Sit Rep 12: Jan 18, 2016 
CS Sit Rep 13: Jan 25, 2016 
CS Sit Rep 14: Feb 1, 2016  
CS Sit Rep 15: Feb 8, 2016 
CS Sit Rep 16: Feb 15, 2016 
CS Sit Rep 17: Feb 22, 2016  
CS Sit Rep 18: Feb 29, 2016                                                   
CS Sit Rep 19: Mar 07, 2016                   
CS Sit Rep 20: Mar 14, 2016 
CS Sit Rep 21: Mar 19, 2016

Where the Wild Krill Are
pulling net on deck
International collaboration to investigate krill hot-spots

AMLR researcher Christian Reiss has teamed with scientists from the British Antarctic Survey, Norway’s Institute of Marine Research, the Norwegian Polar Institute, Portugal’s University of Aveiro, and the University of Washington (USA), along with the Norwegian fishing fleet, to investigate krill distribution patterns and flux around the South Orkney Islands during the 2016 austral summer (January and February). The team will specifically focus on krill hotspots (large swarms of krill) as they investigate the sources of krill, including the role of the ice-edge, the flux of krill in and out of these hotspots, and how predators and the fishery exploit the swarms. Results from this project will contribute to our understanding of Antarctic krill and the Southern Ocean ecosystem, ultimately allowing CCAMLR to make informed decisions on how best to manage this vital resource. preparing buoy for deploymentdeploying bouyMore information on the project can be found here.

While on board the RRS James Clark Ross, Christian will provide analysis of the continuous underway ADCP plus two moored ADCPs. He will also provide analysis of oceanographic data (water column temperature, salinity and chlorophyll) to provide context for the interpretation of the data collected. 

logo for Copa field station

Got Birds?
Copacabana does!

The Copacabana site was opened on Friday, January 8th.  Camp had been unoccupied for roughly one year prior to our arrival, but all power, heat, lighting, water, appliances and two-way radio communication systems were quickly returned to operational status upon arrival.  No major damage to the camp was apparent and all outbuildings, storm shutters, stored equipment, and food supplies were in good condition.  For more details, read the sit reps (see table below) sent in from the island.

Weekly Sit Reps from Copacabana study site
Copa Sit Rep 1: January 10, 2016 
Copa Sit Rep 2: January 17, 2016 
Copa Sit Rep 3: January 24, 2016 

Who am I? 
Identifying Orcinus Orca in the peninsulaPhoto by Bob Pitman. Orcinus Orca, Rothera, January 2009

In collaboration with the MMTD, Bob Pitman heads to Antarctica early February to participate as an invited scientist aboard the tour vessel National Geographic Explorer. He will be aboard for a month, with the work divided into two legs. Sailing from Ushuaia, Argentina, the first leg is a 10-day trip to the Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP) and back; the second leg is a 20-day trip that also includes the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. While on board, Bob will look for a top marine predator, the killer whale Orcinus Orca.  Normally, when he finds them, the ship diverts to allow the passengers to view the whales, and then after about an hour or so, Bob and his assistants will deploy in a small boat to photograph, biopsy sample, and satellite tag individual whales. Through this effort, the research team has acquired over 60,000 images of four different ecotypes of killer whales from the Scotia Sea/Antarctic Peninsula area and scores of biopsy samples.  Additionally, they have tagged over 75 killer whales and five Antarctic minke whales to date. Bob and his colleagues are just beginning to organize a photo-identification catalog for WAP killer whales, which will allow the research team to make population estimates for the three main types of killer whales that occur there (types A, big B and little B). This year, they purchased a UAS with grant funding, and MMTD colleague John Durban is currently on the Explorer taking aerial photographs of killer whales (and minkes and humpbacks!) to determine body lengths (for killer whale taxonomy studies), as well as health and body condition (as determined by length/weight ratio). This is the sixth year of research on board the Explorer, sponsored by the National Geographic Society and Lindblad Expeditions in grants made available to Bob Pitman, John Durban and Holly Fearnbach. 

Last modified: 11/8/2017