September 1, 2012 Wind, waves, and then sun!
I'm going to start with a quick update from yesterday. After cancelling the previous station due to weather, the ship moved to the next station with the hope that the waves and winds would die down. The quiet day gave people a chance to catch up on sleep, and everyone was ready for the station that began around 9 PM. Once again, the weather seemed to pick up as the CTD came on board and the zooplankton nets went into the water. As Jackie tried to move her heavy van Veen grab into place, with the assistance of two others, all three plus the grab went sliding across the deck. At that point, everyone tied down gear, and we abandoned the station. It's important to occupy as many stations as possible while out, but no one wants to compromise safety.
While waiting for this morning's station (let's hope the weather cooperates), I spoke with Dr. Bodil Bluhm, University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF). Bodil is working with Dr. Katrin Iken and her graduate student, Lauren Bell, both from UAF. I'll give you a brief overview of their work, but remember that you can check out more about each of them and their project at www.oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/12arctic/welcome/html
Bodil and Katrin have three objectives for this cruise, two RUSALCA related and one other. For all three, they will take invertebrates from both the beam and the otter trawls (more about those later). Their first objective relates to the structure of the epi (upon) benthic (bottom) community – those organisms that live on the bottom. They'll look at abundance, biomass, and species distribution and use a matrix to look at similarities in species abundance by location in order to get an idea of groups of stations that are similar in fauna (animals). The question is – what drives this? For the answer, they'll look at a matrix of environmental data (bottom water temperature and oxygen, sediment grain size, total organic matter, chlorophyll and food availability). Their second objective is to look at the food webs - how many trophic (food) levels are there and who's in what level. By taking small samples from the organisms and analyzing them, they'll get an indication of the sources of carbon (marine or terrestrial) and the organism's position in the food web. Short food webs are very efficient in getting carbon to the sediments.
A third project is to collect snow crabs to get an estimation of the population for the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Snow crab is a commercially fished species in the Bering Sea. With climate change and oil and gas exploration in the Chukchi Sea, it is time to investigate the snow crab stocks of the Pacific Arctic to provide solid information for decision makers.
On the day we arrive back in Nome, Katrin, Lauren, Kelley and Russ from this cruise will fly out to Dead Horse and go from there to Prudhoe Bay to board another ship for a 10 day trans boundary (with Canadian scientists) cruise in the Eastern Beaufort Sea. Their work will be very similar to what they're doing on this cruise. In 2011, on this cruise, they surveyed 79 stations across the Beaufort shelf, at 12 – 220 meters depths, and this time they'll survey the slope, down to 1000 meters. Next year they'll move into Canadian waters.
Note: By the time we reached out midmorning station, the wind and waves had died down and the sun came out! We had a full biology station and, with my multiple layers on (long underwear, turtle neck, fleece, wool socks, and a mustang suit) I was warm on deck.