NAAMES (North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study): NAAMES-II Expedition: June 6, 2016

June 8th, 2016 by Kristina Mojica

Hangashore Day

As of the writing of this BLog it is the day before landfall. Spirits are high and writing a blog is not my first activity choice and by the time this BLog will be posted I plan to be in recovery stage from the Cruise Apres Party. That being said I am happy to have this opportunity to help shine a light on this amazing field and the folks who make this type of venture happen. From the hard working crew of the Atlantis including Engineering, Bridge Officers, Deck Crew, Steward Staff, Science Support Group to all the wicked smart Scientists of this NAAMES II. It takes hard work, long hours and dedication to perform at such a high level under these conditions but the rewards are fantastic.

Specifically, I would like to thank Chief Scientist Mike Berhenfeld a force of nature in his own right who almost never leaves fish to find fish. As well as my team mates Tom the coffee cup experimenter, Mackenzie who defines cute at all times and expert vial preparer and Jack wanna be shiphand scientist and master of the Seas.

This world needs more people like these so if you are interested enough to read these Blogs consider yourself invited to the science community working to characterize and ultimately secure this Planet for future generations. Science up in school and get on board … we need you. If you are not in a position to plan your future as such … support your local science organizations. Time is of the essence….

I am normally busy trying to troubleshoot electronics and other mechanical parts of scientific instrumentation during a cruise. I have chosen a career that is quite rewarding because I get to help these inspiring people. The charge I get from bringing science instruments back from the dead for a grateful scientist is indescribable…. You have no Idea :). However I think this has been amply addressed in the previous Blogs and it’s kinda boring for this format.

So for your entertainment a little geeky ”inside the cruise” data:
Note … If you find a mistake feel free to let me know but no one cares too much :).

From the Chief Engineer…

This is a very powerful ship and energy is power over a period of time.
Theoretical Maximum Energy output of the Atlantis 64,800,000,000 Joules/day (3 x 750kW service generators + 3 x 1.5 MW generators for driving the thrusters)
As a handy reference that’s the approximate average amount of energy expended by two human heart muscles over an 80-year lifetime.

The engines of the RV Atlantis.  Photo: Thomas Bell

The engines of the RV Atlantis. Photo: Thomas Bell

The Atlantis can stay at Sea for 60 days and has enough range to circle the earth in 120 days with one refill for fuel.

At .6 miles per gallon I estimate at a tonnage of say 3200T loaded up it is approx the same weight as 40 loaded semi-Trailers at 80T a piece with an equivalent mileage of 24 MPG each… not bad considering the vessel hauls around accommodations for 22 Crew 36 Science and Technical 2 Science Support room for 6 container labs, 4 large cranes, 2 equipment winches 4 science labs and public spaces like a library and TV room. Holy smokes it is a sweet ride.

They clean water to remove salt and impurities at say an average of 3000 gal/day is leaving 750 lbs of salt removed a day. Not to mention the Food.

The ship Steward gave me some under-reported cruise consumption metrics for our 26 day mission….,

250 lbs flour
150 lbs white sugar
6 x .5 Gal maple syrup
210 dz eggs
500 snack-size bags of chips
25 gal ice cream
300 snack-size ice cream bars
600 snack-packs cookies
150 lbs butter
50+ lbs prunes
150 lbs butter
30 lbs Gummy Bears
12 lbs Jelly Beans
220 lbs Coffee Beans
16 lbs Goldfish
240 Ice Cream Bars
18 Gallons Ice Cream
360 bags of chips
400 candy bars

Gummy Bears!

Gummy Bears!

Not to mention a dizzying collection of condiments at each of the 5 mess tables. A huge thank you to the Steward staff for keeping us alive and quite happy with their creative and delicious offerings. The crew of the Atlantis are top notch I would sail with these consummate professionals any time.

Condiments in a line.

Condiments in a line.

Condiments on board the RV Atlantis.

Condiments on board the RV Atlantis.

I’ve put a Blog Word Cloud on here for padding :).All in all an impressive mission that I feel lucky to be a part of… Thanks for reading and enjoy your hangashore day!

NAAMES 2 word cloud from WorditOut dot com

NAAMES 2 word cloud from WorditOut dot com

Written by Cyril MacCormic

NAAMES (North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study): NAAMES-II Expedition: June 5, 2016

June 8th, 2016 by Kristina Mojica

I have the uncanny privilege of penning this blog on the very day that we return to terra firma. In other words, we’re finally back on land and you expect me to write about the cruise?!?  It is true that most everyone’s thoughts are bent toward home and whatever awaits them there (kids, family, friends, pets, etc.) and I’m certainly no different. Nevertheless, I will take this opportunity to reflect on few things that I will in fact, miss from our trusty mobile home over the last month, the R/V Atlantis. Indeed, there are many advantages to life at sea. Mariners have known this ever since, but there are subtle, more modern differences as well. For instance, it has been 26 days since I last handled money, keys, or a wallet. While these small things are necessary items to successfully navigate everyday life back home, they have no real value out here. No moments of “Where are my keys?” or “I forgot my wallet!” Our currency consists of good deeds and efforts to make the work/living space as enjoyable as possible. It’s easy to prosper when that is your measuring stick.

"How do these things work again?"

“How do these things work again?”

And don’t even get me started about cell phones. Being at sea is a bit of a throwback to a time (not that long ago), when not everyone had their faces buried in a personal device. Yes, we rely on all sorts of technology while out here, but there something not so offensive about it….but I digress … Generally speaking, being insulated from the continuous onslaught of [mostly bad] news is also a blessing in disguise. For better or worse, I haven’t thought about this year’s presidential election once this past month (insert your favorite presidential candidate joke here). That is not to say that I don’t care, or more importantly, that it has no bearing on our ability to be here, but there is more than a kernel of truth in the old saying, “Ignorance is bliss”. Overall, there is just less to worry about out here. For us , the passengers, that is. The captain, mates, engineers, and seamen worry about our course and our safety. Our food and shelter is well cared for by the stewards department. Life is easy……sort of…..

Now, in contrast to the enjoyment of getting home, there is actually a lot to worry about work-wise once we’re back!! Despite working 14+ hours per day, 7 days per week while on the cruise, we return to work having been out of the office for a month! There’s a lot to catch up on. Add to that all the samples that are being shipped home for further analyses and follow-up work that we have generated as a result of the cruise. Of course, then there is the planning for the next expedition in 18 months, the papers that need to get written, meetings, etc.……Well, it once again makes this life at sea seem so bad after all …..So, thanks for reading, but I had better get to work!……Wait, where’s my wallet?…

Written by Toby Westberry

NAAMES (North Atlantic Aerosols and Marine Ecosystems Study): NAAMES-II Expedition: June 4, 2016

June 8th, 2016 by Kristina Mojica

Waking to a dry morning, I sluggishly dawdled to the water dispenser where my housemate was staring at a strong column of ants.

“They’re back in force. We should do something about them.”

It was a predictable biological event pattern – one that happens whenever there is a long spell of dry heat.

I thought about it for a moment, “We could get some powdered diatomaceous earth and spread that around.”

“What is that?”

“Fossilized shells of diatoms, so it’s mostly silica. I think it absorbs lipids from an ant’s exoskeleton, causing it to dehydrate and die.”

“That’s kind of brutal – aren’t diatoms the phytoplankton you’re growing?”

In fact, they were. Inside our laboratory at UC Santa Barbara, I had been cultivating marine diatoms, photosynthetic microscopic plankton found throughout the temperate oceans. Some estimates project that they produce up to 20% of the oxygen we breathe. They also often contribute to one of the most striking and predictable biological events in the oceans, the annual North Atlantic spring bloom – an event so striking that it can be seen from satellite images!

As primary producers, marine diatoms transform carbon dioxide and inorganic nutrients into the organic matter they need to build their cellular mass and fuel their activity. Through a few processes, that organic matter is released into the water as a dissolved source of food and carbon, DOM (dissolved organic matter), to marine bacteria.
Professor Craig Carlson and I study DOM because it supports the activity of marine bacteria, prevalent and important members of the oceanic food web, and because it represents a fraction of carbon that can sway the balance of carbon dioxide between the ocean and atmosphere.

A chain of marine diatoms imaged by the onboard Imaging Flow Cytobot (IFCB).

A chain of marine diatoms imaged by the onboard Imaging Flow Cytobot (IFCB).

In the months prior to this NAAMES mission, we were working hard to tag DOM produced by our diatoms with a non-radioactive isotope. Our intent was to concentrate the tagged DOM and feed it to natural populations of marine bacteria that we collect and incubate in bottles. If successful, our use of the material would allow us to observe and compare the specific types, or taxa, of marine bacteria that use DOM produced by blooming phytoplankton.

Left: Sampling some of our growth experiments to quantify DOM, cell numbers, cell carbon content, DNA, and enzyme activity. Right: Microscopic view of marine bacteria from our growth experiments, fluorescing with a nuclear counterstain.

Left: Sampling some of our growth experiments to quantify DOM, cell numbers, cell carbon content, DNA, and enzyme activity. Right: Microscopic view of marine bacteria from our growth experiments, fluorescing with a nuclear counterstain.

The North Atlantic is notorious for being unforgiving and furious, often making it difficult for scientists to gather samples and perform experiments. Though it has upheld its reputation by slamming our vessel with up to 50-foot waves, it also graced us with its gentle nature, providing us with a unique opportunity to witness and study the spring phytoplankton bloom. Thanks to both calm conditions and the more than capable help from all the Atlantis crewmembers, Craig and I were able to not only collect more than all of the samples we needed, but were also able to spin up every bacterial growth experiment we hoped to conduct – including our DOM feeding experiment.

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Although it will take many months of processing and analyzing our samples before we can procure firm results and conclusions, we expect to generate a dataset that will be informative to our understanding of ocean chemistry and ecology.

We’ll be back to do it all again – but first, I’d like to test how diatomaceous earth might inhibit the predictable summer ant invasion into our house.

Representatives from UCSB’s ocean optics and microbial oceanography groups. Front, left to right: Stuart Halewood, Associate Development Engineer, and Craig Carlson. Back, left to right: James Allen and Nick Huynh, Graduate Student Researchers.  PC: Pete Gaube

Representatives from UCSB’s ocean optics and microbial oceanography groups. Front, left to right: Stuart Halewood, Associate Development Engineer, and Craig Carlson. Back, left to right: James Allen and Nick Huynh, Graduate Student Researchers. Photo: Pete Gaube

Written by Nick Huynh

Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE): ABoVE: Burned boreal forests – the “little moments”

June 8th, 2016 by Catherine Dieleman

One of the best parts of a field campaign are the ‘little moments’ that sneak in while you work. They can really make your day. On that front this field campaign has been no slouch. Yesterday for example, we saw a juvenile black bear while we were traveling to a new field site. We also enjoyed a great sunset over Lake La Ronge here in Saskatchewan, and had a beaver sighting later that evening.

The great sunset the team enjoyed over Lake La Ronge on June 5. (Credit: Dieleman)

The great sunset the team enjoyed over Lake La Ronge on June 5. (Credit: Dieleman)

However, for me one of the best ‘little moments’ happened the day before… Our team is split into a number of different groups that measure different ecosystem characteristics: fire severity, tree density, species and age, as well as soil horizons and depth of burn in the soil. Liz Wiggins and myself work together to collect the soil measurements. As we measure and collect samples from every organic soil horizon, this task can take some time — often causing the soils group to finish up well after the rest of the team. Saturday though, everything came together for us soil diggers, and for the first time on this campaign our little group finished up first. We thought it was worth a victory photo. Sometimes it is the little things.

That Saturday was a particularly eventful day for the whole team. We had a great opportunity to participate in the filming of CBC’s The Nature of Things. Everyone was a pleasant combination of excited with a touch of nerves to be filmed, but generally thrilled to be sharing our science in this medium. The whole filming crew was wonderful, and eased us through the whole process. The sneak peek of the drone footage they shot seemed pretty promising to us, but we will all have to wait till 2017 to see the final footage. I guess some days in the field it is the big things too.

Catherine Dieleman is a post-doctoral researcher in Ecosystem Science at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada

 

Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE): ABoVE: Burned boreal forest – from detailed field measurements to satellite pixels

June 6th, 2016 by Sander Veraverbeke

The recent megafire around Fort McMurray drew worldwide attention. Not only did this fire devastate a community, the fire also grew exceptionally large and started very early in the fire season. Northern forests are rapidly changing, and fire plays a crucial role in this transition.

A recently burned forest in Saskatchewan, Canada. (Credit: Sander Veraverbeke)

A recently burned forest in Saskatchewan, Canada. (Credit: Sander Veraverbeke)

Fires in the boreal forest emit large amounts of carbon dioxide, the most important greenhouse gas. Exactly how much they emit is a difficult question to answer. Over many decades these forest have piled up thick layers of downed needles and other organic material, resulting in thick carbon-rich soils. When a fire spreads through the forest, the carbon it emits comes mostly from these soil layers, and not so much from the actual live trees.

The real question is: how deep do these fires burn into the soils? There is a lot a variability depending on which forest type is burning and how hot it burns.

Some members of our team just excavated a deep organic soil. They will carefully measure this soil pie and cut out some samples for lab analysis. (Credit: Veraverbeke)

Some members of our team just excavated a deep organic soil. They will carefully measure this soil pie and cut out some samples for lab analysis. (Credit: Veraverbeke)

As part of the ABoVE field campaign, our field crew flew into Saskatoon, Saskatchewan on May 28th from Massachusetts, California, Ontario, and the Netherlands. We joined up with another field team from the University of Saskatchewan. After stocking up on supplies, we drove about four hours north to enter vast swaths of boreal forest.

Our goal in Saskatchewan is to quantify how much carbon fires emit in forest types that currently burn infrequently, but may become more sensitive to fire in the near future. For example, we are interested in reburns in forests that last burned only a couple of years ago, or burns in forests where people previously cut down trees. With all the changes that are underway it is important to understand how fires impact these forest types and how much carbon they emit.

Our maneuvers in challenging terrain are rewarded by gorgeous vistas of landscapes that are untouched - except by fire. (Credit: Veraverbeke)

Our maneuvers in challenging terrain are rewarded by gorgeous vistas of landscapes that are untouched – except by fire. (Credit: Veraverbeke)

Since we arrived, we have been hitting up quite a few field plots. Getting to these field plots requires off-trail hiking in often-rough terrain, with soggy bogs and steep rocky hills. We have to scramble through piles of wood that fell down after the fire. Once we get to our desired site, we measure for several hours. We take samples of soils that will be analyzed in the lab and measure lots of trees (as many as several hundred). By doing so, we are able to assess the amount carbon of that was emitted by the fire.

We can link up our field measurements with data from NASA satellites to better characterize all fires within Canada and Alaska. During the day we get rewarded for our hard work with lunches-with-views, mosquitoes, and some thunderstorms that hopefully rain out somewhere far on the horizon…

Sander Veraverbeke is a project scientist at the University of California, Irvine, and an assistant professor in Remote Sensing at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam

Notes from the Field