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.