Seafloor Organisms and Changing Ocean Conditions in Antarctic


PolarConnect Event Archived

Check out Nell Herrmann's PolarConnect Event from 2 March from Palmer Station, Antarctica by visiting the PolarConnect Event Archives.

What Are They Doing?

This project studied the effects of rising ocean acidification and temperatures on seafloor dwelling animals in the shallow waters of Antarctica. Carbon moves around the earth, between land, atmosphere, and water in the carbon cycle. The ocean absorbs Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from the Earth’s atmosphere. As increasing amounts of Carbon Dioxide are absorbed, the pH of the water is decreasing or becoming more acidic. This is called ocean acidification.

Underwater marine life

Several marine animals, such as mussels, snails, sea urchins, and more use the naturally occurring calcium (Ca) and carbonate (CO3) in seawater to construct their shells or skeletons. As seawater becomes more acidic, carbonate becomes less available, which makes it more difficult for these organisms to form their skeletal material. This negatively affects the health of the animal in many different ways.

In Antarctica, it is predicted that water temperatures will increase and the calcium carbonate needed by these organisms will decrease. Being sensitive to small changes in water temperatures and unable to form adequate shells and skeletons, many of these animals may have declines in health. Understanding how these small animals will react to changing ocean conditions is important, as several larger animals rely on them as a food source.

To collect their data, SCUBA divers dived to the seafloor and collected organisms. The research team ran several experiments on the animals to see how they would respond to changes in water acidification and temperature.

Where Are They?

Palmer Station The research team lived and worked at Palmer Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) study area, located on Anvers Island midway down the Antarctic Peninsula. Palmer Station is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and is one of three United States research stations located in Antarctica. During the summer research season, around 40 people live and work at the station, with that number going down to between 15 and 20 during the winter months. The team arrived at Palmer Station by ship from Punta Arenas, Chile.


I’m home! The end of my trip was a bit crazy with the flooding in Punta Arenas and I apologize for being out of touch. Thanks to all who have written and checked in- I am fine. I arrived in Punta Arenas on Sunday, March 11th, the day that rain and flash floods left about 800 people in Punta Arenas homeless. Schools were closed and the local chapter of the National Emergency office raised the alarm level to red, the highest level. Las Minas, the river that crosses Punta Arenas flooded businesses, schools and the city’s main square. The lower part of Punta Arenas was impacted the most with...
I'm still on the ship and am "standing by." We had to pull away from the pier and anchor offshore last night because of the flood. Everyone on the LMG is feeling a bit restless and ready to move on, but right now all we can do is wait! I hope to get on my flight home tomorrow. We shall see! Grocery store parking lot in Punta Arenas Shipping container washed out to sea
Jamee Johnson
I am still on the ship! I was supposed to move to the hotel today, but the pier is washed out and a seawall has broken. We actually had to leave the dock because everything is such a mess. I hope to get to the hotel tomorrow, but the streets in Punta Arenas are closed. It's been quite a day! Marine Projects Coordinator Jamee Johnson
Fur Seal Pup
I’m back in Punta Arenas; we arrived last night while I was sleeping. It’s a rainy, gray day. I’ll be moving off the ship tomorrow and in the mean time need to return my ECW gear and get repacked and organized for my flight home on 3-14. I’m really excited to get home, but am also feeling a bit blue that my adventure is drawing to an end. I got off the ship for a walk at about 8:30 this morning and met up with 3 stray dogs who followed me around for about an hour. By the time I got back to the ship I was drenched. Different people are heading home on different days and I’ll be sorry to...
Donna, Jen and Shawn
Donna Patterson-Fraser is a seabird ecologist and a bird whisperer, for certain. The opportunity to get out in the field with Donna and field biologists Jen Blum and Shawn Farry during my time at Palmer Station was incredible. Donna has been studying birds in Antarctica for the past twenty-two years and was very willing to share her excitement about and knowledge of giant petrels with me. She is a petite woman with a sizeable spark who navigates her way in and out of zodiacs and over slippery rocks with ease, grace and speed. The day I was in the field with Donna, she was collecting data...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

Dates: 7 February 2012 to 12 March 2012
Location: Palmer Station
Project Funded Title: The effects of ocean acidification and rising sea surface temperatures on shallow−water benthic organisms in Antarctica

Meet the Team

Nell Herrmann's picture
State College Area High School
State College, PA
United States

Nell Herrmann is a Learning Enrichment and Gifted Support Specialist at State College Area High School in State College, Pennsylvania. She is the coach of several academic quiz teams at State High including both the National Ocean Sciences Bowl and the Department of Energy National Science Bowl teams. Prior to her current job, she was a middle school science teacher in Blue Hill, Maine and in State College, Pennsylvania. Ms. Herrmann holds Bachelor's and Master's degrees in Ecology and Conservation Biology, along with a second Master's degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Science. She has been involved in conservation research at many organizations including the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, Colorado; the Hato Pinero Research Facility in Venezuela; Asociacion ANAI in Costa Rica; and the Kangerlussuaq International Science Station in Greenland. Ms. Herrmann has also worked as a boat naturalist for the Marine Environmental Research Institute (MERI) in Blue Hill, Maine. In her role there, she led trips on lobster boats for children and adults, educating the general public about ecological and conservation issues affecting both the Blue Hill Bay and the Gulf of Maine. Ms. Herrmann loves sharing her appreciation of nature with others and is thrilled about her opportunity to be a PolarTREC teacher.

Charles Amsler's picture
University of Alabama at Birmingham
Birmingham, AL
United States

Charles Amsler is a professor of Marine Ecophysiology and Chemical Ecology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The research that he conducts with his students is centered on several areas, but most involve chemical interactions between organisms or ways in which organisms perceive, respond to, or otherwise interact with their chemical environment. Dr. Amsler is very involved with educational outreach by regularly making presentations on Antarctica to K-12 classrooms and other groups (local science museums, etc.).