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.

Where are the Seabirds?

Hi, name is Marty Reedy and I work for the Migratory Bird Management division at the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) out of Anchorage, Alaska.We are responsible for assessing the abundance and distribution of marine bird species in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Besides documenting what birds are here now, we can compare to historic data to look at long-term trends in bird species.

Sharks with Lasers on Their Heads

Sharks with Lasers on Their Heads

My role in the Arctic Integrated Ecosystem Survey is to identify the phytoplankton and measure how active they are.  From a microscopic view, this basically translates to who and how much is there, and what they are doing.  This information is critical to understanding any ecosystem. 

Come On In... The Water's Fine

We are interested in understanding how changes in the physical and chemical environment of the Chukchi Sea, such as the water column heat content, stratification, and nutrients, ultimately impact the regional ecosystem. To help achieve these goals we use a multi-platform approach to examine the physics and chemistry and work with other project scientists to relate these parameters to various ecosystem components including phytoplankton, zooplankton, and fish.

Zooplankton - Where Do They Go On Their Summer Vacation?

My name is Dave Kimmel and I am a research oceanographer with the Eco-FOCI program of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. I specialize in zooplankton ecology and the goal of our research is to characterize the distribution and abundance of the mid-sized zooplankton community.

Different Boats of the Same Water

Different Boats of the Same Water

…Wait for it. OK go again. Wait for it. OK go again. Wait for it…aand go again!

My brain tells me to keep the balance forcing my limbs to take hold of any stable object nearby. It took me a few days to notice that I shift and pause more frequently in everyday things, even as I type this now, during peaks and falls of a huge crest wave

Mapping Fish With Sound

Mapping Fish With Sound

One of the objectives of this cruise is to establish the abundance and distribution of midwater fishes.  In particular, we are interested in the abundance and distribution of Arctic cod, as we have found large numbers of young-of-the-year Arctic cod on the Chukchi shelf in previous surveys, but very few adults.  We are trying to unravel the puzzle of what happens to the young Arctic cod that are present in summer on the Chukchi shelf.  What is their fate? 

Beam Trawl Sampling Results from Summer/Fall Survey Leg 1 and Leg 2

The 3m Plumb Staff Beam Trawl was deployed at 7 stations during Leg 1 and at 21 stations during Leg 2 (as of September 7). Benthic invertebrates dominated the catches. Overall we caught 199 individual taxa and 737 kg of invertebrates. In contrast, we caught 36 individual taxa and 4.8 kg of fish.