26th AMLR Field Season Includes Summer and Winter Projects

The 26th field season of the U.S. Antarctic Marine Living Resources ( AMLR) Program began October 11, 2011. Consistent with the historical research conducted by the Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division ( AERD), land-based field research consists of five to six months of predator studies at two field stations in the South Shetland Islands. New this year, the AERD will conduct a winter vessel survey in August 2012.

Vessel-based Studies: Exploring Winter on the Water

Three AERD scientists, accompanied by a small cadre of contractors, headed south to Punta Arenas, Chile late July 2012. For the first time in US AMLR history, AERD has embarked on a winter vessel survey of the South Shetlands region, focusing on the Elephant Island portion of the popular "AMLR Grid". In addition to the season change for this work, this survey represents a new collaboration with the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs (NSF/OPP). Specifically, 18 days on the RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer are dedicated to conducting AMLR research. Studies will focus on zooplankton, pelagic fish, and oceanographic features in open water and ice.

The location of the Palmer is plotted here; updates and images will be posted on this page as available.

15 August - Headed North Sampling is done and the vessel has headed north into the Drake Passage. Today they saw sunshine for the first time in 15 days, but don't be fooled - it's still only 1.6 degrees C outside! They have big swells (which is normal in the Drake), but by tomorrow morning they should be past Cape Horn and protected by the continent. As they approach the Islas do los Estados, they will be passing to the east of the island, which is unusual - the team is looking forward to this change. One of the projects on board is lipid extractions by Jen Walsh - on this trip, she was able to extract lipid from Euphausia superba, E. frigida, E. crystallorophius, E. tricantha, T. mac, as well as some amphipods and fish. It will be exciting to compare all those species when she gets back to San Diego.

14 August - Almost Done During the survey, at most stations, the research team deployed a CTD for water sampling, and an IKMT for net samples. The IKMT pulled in large catches, keeping the zooplankton team working full pace throughout the day as they sorted through the samples. The catch includes krill that are smaller/younger than recorded on any AMLR cruise, along with a myriad of other critters not normally encountered on our surveys. Before leaving the study region, they will transition to using the Tucker trawl, fishing deeper and longer - should be interesting to see what they get!

10 August - Logistics Insights AERD researchers work in the cold all the time, but on this trip, "cold" takes on a new meaning. On this day, the wind chill dropped to -40ºC, but not to worry - the air temperature was a balmy -18º! Although the science is our focus, we've learned some interesting logistics-related things during this trip too. For example, did you know that duct tape won't stick below -9º? And zipties don't like cold either: below -12º, they break! Fortunately, with the capable support of the NSF crew, these insights have not impacted our team and the work continues.

5 August - Calibration Success A critical step of conducting acoustic studies is to have the acoustic system calibrated, ideally at the start and end of each season. This effort requires several hours and calm seas. In contrast to the rough seas in the Drake Passage, Maxwell Bay* offers a calm protected area to work. Today, the AERD acoustician team (Cossio and Reiss) were able to calibrate the transducers without a hitch. *Maxwell Bay is nestled between King George and Nelson Islands.

1 August - The Adventure Begins At circa 1400 local time, the RVIB Palmer left port in Punta Arenas, Chile. The first few days will be spent transiting through the Straits of Magellan, and then across the Drake Passage to the South Shetlands region.

Antarctic Petrel

Antarctic Petrel

snow petrel sm

Snow Petrel

ice seal sm

Ice seal hanging out...

9 August - Breaking a new path on the RVIB Palmer

9 August - Breaking a new path on the RVIB Palmer

9 August - Pushed aside by the vessel

9 August - Pushed aside by the vessel

8 August - Snow falling on pancake ice

8 August - Snow falling on pancake ice

8 August - RVIB Palmer trail in pancake ice with deployed CTD

8 August - RVIB Palmer trail in pancake ice with deployed CTD

6 August - Breaking a new path on the RVIB Palmer

6 August - Meringue ice in Bransfield Strait

Field Stations – Predator Breeding Studies

Four AMLR scientists opened the Copacabana field station in Admiralty Bay on King George Island on October 11, 2011. Five scientists opened the Cape Shirreff field station on November 6, 2011. Both sites continued operations through early March.

At the stations, AMLR scientists monitored the breeding biology, foraging ecology, and recruitment success of breeding predator populations in the South Shetland Islands, including chinstrap, Adélie, and gentoo penguins, as well as Antarctic fur seals. They also studied nesting seabirds (giant petrels and skuas), leopard seals, Weddell seals, and elephant seals.

Beyond Antarctica - AERD and AMLR reach out to the community

Following a successful outreach undertaking during the 2010-11 AMLR Field Season, the AERD and AMLR teamed up again with Whale Times to conduct more "virtual missions" to Antarctica. Through the "Bold in the Cold" Program (whaletimes.org), AMLR Program scientists corresponded with students in K-12 classrooms across the nation and locally in their home town of San Diego, CA. Students collaborated to devise two to three classroom questions (for each partidipating classroom) about Antarctica and AMLR research, and will receive responses from AMLR scientists, including a section in which the researchers describe their daily activities. Through this program, the AERD and AMLR hope to bring science to life for youth across the nation, and promote the conservation and sustainable management of Antarctic resources.

Click below for the weekly progress reports from the AMLR field camps as they monitored predator populations throughout the 2012 Austral summer

Week 1: Copacabana

Week 1: Cape Shirreff

Week 2: Copacabana

Week 2: Cape Shirreff

Week 3: Copacabana

Week 3: Cape Shirreff

Week 4: Copacabana

Week 4: Cape Shirreff

Week 5: Copacabana

Week 5: Cape Shirreff

Week 6: Copacabana

Week 6: Cape Shirreff

Week 7: Copacabana

Week 7: Cape Shirreff

Week 8: Copacabana

Week 8: Cape Shirreff

Week 9: Copacabana

Week 9: Cape Shirreff

Week 10: Copacabana

Week 10: Cape Shirreff

Week 11: Copacabana

Week 11: Cape Shirreff

Week 12: Copacabana

Week 12: Cape Shirreff

Week 13: Copacabana

Week 13: Cape Shirreff

Week 14: Copacabana

Week 14: Cape Shirreff

Week 15: Copacabana

Week 15: Cape Shirreff

Week 16: Copacabana

Week 16: Cape Shirreff

Week 17: Copacabana

Week 18: Copacabana

Week 19: Copacabana

Week 20: Copacabana

Last modified: 11/8/2017