By Rolf Gradinger, UiT
Our science team of 22 is heading now into the Known Unknowns. Known as we had spent many days in preparation for this expedition, reading publications on the Polar Front, its hydrography, animal and plant life, food web interactions and needed methodologies. Known as some of us have previous experience working in Polar Seas– but there still remain the Unknowns we aim to resolve like the current status of the Polar Front. Within the next nine days we will resolve parts of the puzzle on how active the water suspended microalgae and ocean animal will be and how the front causes separation between the communities living in the water and the sea floor. Our success will depend not only on our own abilities but also the local weather and ice conditions, which can make work hard to impossible at times.
Labelling sampling bottles prior to sampling is an important and time consuming task. Photo Rolf Gradinger, UiT
The student participants onboard Helmer Hanssen are also heading into their own Unknowns, as for many this is their first cruise onboard a research vessel into Arctic waters. The PhD level teaching component, organized through ARCTOS and UiT, attracted 15 early career scientists from Norwegian, UK and US universities with widely ranging interests from remote sensing, ocean physics to marine mammal acoustics. All students will get experience in all tools and approaches we are using, whether it is algal activity measurements or the study of benthic macrofauna. This unique experience will provide them with a chance to be trained in Arctic Systems Science, a holistic view looking at interconnections between different components of the living and non-living parts of the Barents Sea. The ability to talk and interact across science disciplines is in our view an essential tool to address the challenging science and management questions regarding the Barents Sea climate change impacts.
The expedition offers all of us also an amazing culture experience, as our science team onboard is highly international with participant nationalities including Brazil, Canada, China, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Iran, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Switzerland, UK, and USA. The combination of home institutions and diversity of nationalities allows all participants to further build their network of scientific connections and culture experiences – both important attributes for successful career and personal growth.
We are still in the unpacking stage, setting up the laboratories, testing sensors and equipment and looking at the first samples. The pile of full transport containers is slowly getting smaller and the lab space onboard Helmer Hanssen looks more and more like being ready for the first station. The calm seas are helping us to work smoothly along the preparation phase. Soon the first data will be collected, exploring the so far Unknowns and increasing the Knowns.
First preliminary data and insights are achieved looking at a zooplankton from South of the Polar Front. Photo Rolf Gradinger, UiT
Celebration of Norwegian constitution day 17th of may. Photo: Malin Daase, UiT
ARCTOS/NL Polar Front Expedition 2021
The key idea behind this joint research and teaching cruise is to carry out a detailed characterization of the Barents Sea Polar Front using a combination of remote sensing and traditional and autonomous sampling platforms/techniques.
This study will show how physical processes, at different scales, influence ecosystem traits across the Polar Front. This includes the characterization of the spring bloom at both sides of the front anticipated to occur in the region during the cruise, in addition to assessing standing stocks of phytoplankton, zooplankton, fish and benthos. The master students, PhD candidates and Post-docs joining this cruise will be actively involved in all sampling procedures, sample processing and data analysis
We will also describe links between biological and physical processes taking place around the frontal system. This polar front study aims to increase our understanding of the living Barents Sea.
Akvaplan-niva provided 4 glider vehicles (two Seagliders Hydroid M1 and two Sailbuoys) for this cruise which is sponsored by Equinor for covering the cost of the participation of Akvaplan-niva and the deployment of the Gliders. The integration of the plankton sensor UVP6 in the Seaglider M1 is financed by the EU project ‘BIOGLIDER’ (EratNet MARTERA program).