Another Asgardian Joins the Ranks

Date: June something or another, it doesn’t really matter with the round the clock work and the endless sun.  Each day starts at a new station, mostly with the view of open ocean and sometimes with the occasional landscape of the Arctic coastline where you get to play the game Alaska or Russia. 

An Insidious Irony

An Insidious Irony

One of the aims of the Arctic Integrated Ecosystem Research Program is to build on our understanding of how Arctic marine ecosystems are responding and will respond to a changing climate.  Few places on Earth are experiencing the same degree of warming as the Arctic.

There is, however, an uncomfortable reality to the whole enterprise of observational oceanography.  Namely, our scientific activities are themselves contributing in a small way to the very problem we are trying to understand.

The Amazement Park

The Amazement Park

The R/V Sikuliaq makes a living in amazement, it’s a verifiable amazement park. This is revealed in a quick glance at the faces of the scientists while they work.

The (Seabird) Heart of Bering Strait

The (Seabird) Heart of Bering Strait

Surveying (or trying to survey) seabirds in the Chirikov Basin and the Bering Strait region in general can be an exercise in frustration – the winds whip up the seas too high, or the fog rolls in and you barely see beyond the ship’s bow, or the low midnight sun covers the sea ahead in glare. Nonetheless, it’s worth the effort, because nowhere else can you see these numbers of auklets…

Mysteries of the Sea

Mysteries of the Sea

The curiosity about nature that drives us to be scientists gets a particular boost when we find something we haven’t seen before – even if it is just a few inches long. This happened to me yesterday when we were sampling a station in the northern Bering Sea.

Spring Sentinels

Spring Sentinels

As I watch the slate gray waves moving rhythmically away from the bow of the vessel, a shocking white cloud erupts ahead of my field of vision. My eyes, momentarily blurry from the hypnotic motion of the waves, focus on the spot where the white anomaly appeared. Again, a spout appears, stark white against the ashen sky and sea. ‘Whale’ I whisper with enthusiasm….

Ode to N1

Ode to N1

Searching the ocean with bated breath

Will the mooring return from the watery depth

The Acrobat Abides

The Acrobat Abides

“Hey Pete, you mind if you watch the Acrobat for a little bit? I need to fill up my coffee and splash some water on my face.”

Ready, Set, Breathe

Ready, Set, Breathe

As I stand in awe of the transformational colors of the 2 am sunset over the Arctic waters, the majestic beauty slips me into a tranquil state of appreciation, and I savor the moment.  I am on a world-class research vessel, conducting cutting-edge marine science in the Arctic.  It might sound like a cliché, but it really is a dream come true.

Expectation

Expectation

Back by popular demand… Spring in the Arctic! If you didn’t get enough last year, get your tickets now to witness breathtaking views and ground-breaking science. Watch extraordinary fish and incredible invertebrates emerge from the watery depths of the Chukchi Sea. Fish slime included absolutely free of charge.

Getting to the bottom of things

Getting to the bottom of things

The excitement is always the same as the bottom trawl slowly comes up to the surface, even after more than 15 years of doing this type of work. What will the catch look like, will it have some especially interesting creatures in it, will it be all muddy or clean?

Floating Away in the Bering Sea

Floating Away in the Bering Sea

With a shallow coast on the east, Russian waters on the west and our cruise plan heading north, there is a focused set of parameters that have to be met for successful sample collection. The night before our first deployment I couldn’t sleep.

Keep Calm, and Breathe On

Keep Calm, and Breathe On

In the Arctic, most of the “fuel” that keeps marine organisms going all year is produced during the short spring bloom season. When you consider that there is only so much food in the fridge and it needs to last all winter, burning through it too fast might not be so good.  We need to understand how fast the material produced in spring gets used up by the marine food web, and what parts of the food web use the most, in order to better predict how things might change if the temperature continues to creep up.  Getting some real numbers for these important biological rates is a central goal of our project.

Welcome aboard for our 2018 field season!

Welcome aboard for our 2018 field season!

A team of enthusiastic scientists, graduate students, and vessel crew are busily preparing for the 2018 Arctic Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (IERP) expedition aboard the R/V Sikuliaq and we hope you will follow along via this blog throughout the month of June. If you followed our adventures in 2017, thank you for your continued interest in our work, and if you are new to our blog, welcome aboard!

All the Arctic IERP scientists and representatives of several Arctic communities met in person in March and discussed preliminary results from 2017. In 2017, the sea ice retreated earlier than normal in the spring, and water temperatures were warmer than average, and the effects of those conditions were observed from plankton to whales. In 2018, sea ice conditions have been even more anomalous than in 2017, with sea ice forming much later than normal and retreating again very rapidly. We are interested to see what we find in the northern Bering Sea and southern Chukchi Sea this June.

We are very pleased that Opik Ahkinga of Little Diomede has agreed to join our voyage again in 2018. Opik contributed to all aspects of the scientific data collection in June 2017 and summarized her experiences in a report that is available alongside the 2017 cruise reports on the Preliminary Results page of our website.

The June 2018 expedition is called the Arctic Shelf Growth, Advection, Respiration and Deposition (ASGARD) rate study and is led by scientists of the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The vessel will depart Seward, Alaska soon and is anticipated to begin work in the northern Bering Sea on June 6. Research will occur June 6-24 and the tentative sampling plan is illustrated in the map below. The scientists anticipate working at process stations (yellow squares on map) for 8-12 hours each and will typically remain at survey stations (black dots on map) less than two hours each.

 Map illustrating the tentative sampling plan for 2018.

Map illustrating the tentative sampling plan for 2018.

Research plans have been vetted by the Arctic Waterways Safety Committee, the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission, and various marine mammal co-management organizations via the Indigenous People’s Council on Marine Mammals to avoid conflicts with subsistence activities. The ship's position and course will be broadcast via marine radio channels 16 and 69 every six hours and a daily email will be distributed to interested parties.

We hope you enjoy following our adventures! Thank you for your interest.

Reflection

Reflection

Being on the Chukchi Sea for five weeks has given me a new perspective of the scientific community and, after being so closely involved with my environment while growing up, gave me a drive to learn more about the Arctic.

Always More Work To Be Done!

Always More Work To Be Done!

One of the final nets to talk about is the surface trawl. It is an oval-shaped net that allows us to catch larger fish swimming near the top of the water. Around 16 meters wide and about 18 meters in height, it’s finest moment during leg three of the survey happens when a single juvenile pacific salmon emerges from the webbing.

Weather Permitting

Heading north from the Bering Strait, the only variation would be the hues of white and grey floating water particles in the sky. Autumn was my favorite season growing up in Barrow.

Nets on Nets, What a Mesh!

Nets on Nets, What a Mesh!

When I was about to start out on this survey, I had nearly no idea what methods were going to be used or how all these species were going to be collected. From a beginner’s perspective, nets are simple tools to catch fish and that’s that. From a scientific researcher’s point of view, these nets are crucial elements in gaining information. On this survey I counted six different nets used for specific purposes. So why are there so many different types of nets with different designs?

Gadgets, Gizmos & Gorgonocephalus

Gadgets, Gizmos & Gorgonocephalus

Scattered ‘round the lab is a horde of blinking lights and screens flashing with maps and graphs. Microscopes and measuring utensils fill in the few open lab table spaces of the stations in which everyday progress occurs. Each lab station has been a flurry of fish sorting, water filtration systems, counting and calculating.