What Are They Doing?
The research team continued to explore remote regions of the seafloor around McMurdo Station, Antarctica with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) for underwater research. The ROV was deployed through a small (15 cm) hole in the sea ice, enabling access to regions beyond scuba diving depths (at 40-170 m) and allowing the research team to survey very large areas of overlapping seafloor.
The research team used the ROV to locate historical experimental structures on the sea floor around McMurdo Station and to investigate the colonization of these structures by species of sessile invertebrates. The ROV was able to take videos and photographs of these ecological communities, which permitted the team to identify size, type, and species of organisms living on the structures. This provided an unprecedented opportunity to explore and document the rates and patterns of ecological succession from one of the most extreme habitats in the world.
The team also tested protocols for conducting sonar mapping with the new ROV as a first step towards creating high-resolution, bathymetric maps of the entire seafloor around McMurdo Station. The ROV's continued development and testing ensures its flexibility to be used for a variety of types of research projects in the future.
Learn more about Project SCINI at the official project website.
Where Are They?
The team worked out of McMurdo Station, Antarctica. McMurdo is on Ross Island, a volcanic island (with the southernmost active volcano, Mt. Erebus) south of New Zealand in the Ross Sea. They worked near Cape Evans to perfect their ROV piloting skills. Then they made science dives at Bay of Sails, an iceberg graveyard under seasonal ice on the west side of McMurdo Sound. This gave them a comparison to the 2008 season's work under the permanent McMurdo Ice Shelf at Heald Island, and for the iceberg disturbed site at Cape Evans on the east side of the sound. They also requested permission to work at White Island, the only place where there are natural cracks through the permanent Ross Ice Shelf that are hundreds of meters thick, to describe isolated communities there and compare them to the isolated McMurdo Ice Shelf communities.
Dr. Stacy Kim is a research professor in Benthic Ecology, or how organisms that live on the seafloor interact to form communities. She has worked with Dr. Adam Marsh in both Antarctic and hydrothermal vent ecosystems, and will be diving on this project to help collect worms, as well as to continue assembling data to examine long term changes in Antarctic ecosystems. When she is not studying human impacts in marine communities and developing technology for underwater research, Stacy enjoys backpacking, climbing, and beach volleyball.
Bob Zook is an engineer with Coastal Conservation and Research, Inc. Mr. Zook first worked as a logistics support contractor in Antarctica in 1997, but now works in Antarctic research. Mr. Zook is the chief engineer that designed and developed the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) called SCINI (Submersible Capable of Under Ice Navigation and Imaging). The SCINI ROV will be used in 2010 on the IceAged project. He is also working with the ANDRILL (http://www.andrill.org/) project in Antarctica to develop an ROV that can dive deeper.