The Antarctic Ecosystem Research Division (AERD) successfully completed the 24th field season of the Antarctic Marine Living Resources (AMLR) Program on March 20, 2010. The AERD staffed two field camps, Copacabana and Cape Shirreff, and completed an oceanographic survey of the waters surrounding the South Shetland Islands. See the 2009-10 AMLR Field Season Report for the results of the land-based and sea-based research.
During the 24th AMLR field season, scientists collected data aimed at monitoring changes to the ecosystem due to climate forcing or other environmental factors:
- The breeding biology, foraging ecology and recruitment success of the largest predator populations in the South Shetland Islands - Adelie, chinstrap and gentoo penguins, as well as Antarctic fur seals - was monitored as a measurement of the overall health and success of these populations.
- Oceanographic research, as well as studies of primary productivity and the zooplankton community composition, took place aboard the R/V Moana Wave between January 20 and March 15, 2010. At-sea distribution of marine mammals and seabirds were also monitored aboard-ship. The survey covered the area between the Antarctic Circumploar Current (ACC) to the north of the South Shetland Islands and the Antarctic ice shelf, which extended into the Bransfield Strait in some areas.
For detailed information on the work completed during the 24th AMLR field season, use the links in the upper-left menu for weekly reports from each camp and summaries from the ship. Photos from the field season can also be seen by using the link in the upper-left menu. The map below illustrates the route taken by the R/V Moana Wave during Leg I (grey) and Leg II (red) of the oceanographic cruise.
Venturing into the Ice - Winter Studies
The field season has ended, but the AERD continues its research through the austral winter! This year, the AERD has augmented its research activities to include an over-winter tagging study. Sixty penguins and pinnipeds (Antarctic fur seals, Weddell seals, and leopard seals) were tagged during the austral summer, and are now being followed via satellite throughout the winter of 2010. The tags transmit data back to the AERD that describe oceanographic characteristics at the foraging location of each animal. As the winter season progresses, the animals' movements are posted at /AntarcticPredators/. The tracks are updated weekly, so check back often!
AERD scientists have used 24 years of consistent, thorough data collection to document changes in the ecosystem, from water temperature through primary production to krill and predator abundances, as can be observed during the austral summer. Now, by collecting data during the winter, AERD scientists can track changes in the winter eosystem as well as winter movements in predators, and determine how that affects populations that breed near the Antarctic Peninsula.