Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry blog

Monday, 7 September 2015

SSB Annual Science Meeting (24-25 Nov 2015) - and other information

From an email from Phil Williamson covering developments and events relevant to the Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry researchers.

1. Update on SSB cruise series

After a break in June, the SSB cruise series on RRS Discovery resumed in early July with a mostly-pelagic cruise led by Mark Moore (DY 033), followed by the current, mostly-benthic cruise led by Henry Ruhl (DY 034). Excellent progress has been made to date on DY034, with the four main benthic sites already sampled and two SmartBuoy systems successfully recovered.  RRS Discovery is due to return to Southampton on 2 September, at the end of what is probably the most intensive and ambitious field campaign ever funded by NERC.  It has already delivered a wealth of information, and there is much more to come when data and samples are all fully analysed.  Congratulations to all cruise leaders and participants! 

2. RRS Discovery in London, 8-10 October 2015

As part of NERC’s 50th anniversary programme, RRS Discovery will be in London (moored alongside HMS Belfast, near Tower Bridge) 8-10 October for both public visits and invitation-only events.  Onboard science displays cover a very wide range of activities.  These will include a SSB exhibit on plankton and the carbon cycle, led by Jonathan Sharples, also on-deck display of a Smart Buoy and other sampling gear.  A much wider range of SSB exhibits was offered, but unfortunately there wasn’t space to include them. 

3. Invitation to SSB Annual Science Meeting: Plymouth Marine Laboratory, 24-25 November 2015

All researchers who are directly involved in the SSB programme (either through research grant awards, research studentships, SSB cruise participation or SSB programme management) are invited to the 2015 ASM, to be held at PML,  Plymouth on Tuesday 24 (from 09.30) and Wednesday 25 November (until ~16.00).  The purpose of the meeting is to review progress made, particularly through the cruise programme. Whilst it is not expected that all data and samples will be analysed by then, this will be a key meeting in assessing initial results, strengthening links between WPs, and establishing whether or not SSB’s main components, and the programme as a whole, are ‘on track’ to meet overall objectives.

Online registration and further information for the ASM will be available in mid/late September via SSB pages on the NERC website, including a link to Plymouth hotels near PML.  

Note that:
  • Most participants are expected to make their own accommodation arrangements (the exception is for WP leaders, Executive Board members and Advisory Panel members, for whom a group booking will be made)
  • For those involved in the programme (as defined above), reasonable costs for travel and accommodation will be met, expecting that 2 nights’ accommodation, and possibly three, will be required.
  • The agenda for the meeting will primarily be developed by the WP leaders and myself, identifying the main topics to be presented for discussion. 
  • There will be the opportunity for WP-specific meetings to be held on Monday 23 November, also Thursday 26 November and Friday 27 November; to be arranged by WP leaders.  Any extra costs for such meetings will need to be met from existing budgets.

4. Shelf sea science session at Ocean Sciences meeting; New Orleans, 21-26 February 2016

Abstracts are invited for session #9277 (EC017) “Physical and biogeochemical processes and the support of shelf sea primary productivity and carbon cycling” at the 2016 Ocean Sciences meeting, jointly organised by AGU, ASLO and TOS, and to be held in New Orleans.

The session will be co-chaired by Jonathan Sharples, Richard Sanders and Katja Fennel (Dalhousie), and the deadline for abstracts is 23 September.
Unfortunately it is not currently anticipated that there will be any additional SSB support for participation in this meeting, other than via existing awards.

Dr Phil Williamson
SSB Project Manager


By Sebastian Sims

Cruise DY034 has now come to an end, and with it the end of most Shelf Seas Biogeochemistry Programme field work.

From my perspective, this cruise has been a resounding success. Not only have I learnt a lot of scientific procedures and successfully sampled from CTDs, but also the other scientists have given me a good understanding of their work. I thoroughly enjoyed occasionally helping out with coring and trawling, as I found it fascinating to see the benthic fauna up close. I also enjoyed analysing some of the seafloor photos taken by Autosub. I was interested by the principles behind getting profiles of oxygen and iron concentrations in sediments, nutrient analysis, learning about multibeam and sidescan sonar mapping, as well as the role of gliders and benthic landers in collecting observations independently from the ship.

 Outside of the science, this cruise has been a great experience in itself. The stunning sunrises and sunsets, meteor shower and seeing dolphins for the first time kept me going through the tougher days. I have also met a load of great people, who have all made me feel very welcome, and it would be a pleasure to work alongside any of them in the future.

I would like to thank all of the scientists, technicians and crew who made all of this possible. I know more than ever about what it means to be a marine scientist. For all those who have not been on a research cruise before, I would recommend it with the upmost enthusiasm.

I am shortly going to return to my studies, and I await my next cruise opportunity with great anticipation.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Heading back to Southampton

We've now finished our SSB sampling and we are headed towards Southampton. Many of us are now transitioning from taking and processing samples and preparing equipment for use, to writing up reports and packing for mobilisation back to our respective home labs.

Sea Creatures: Sabellidae
Our thoughts often mix between reflecting on the expedition to getting back to our lives ashore. It's nonetheless a critical time as we want to ensure that all the work we've done has been well documented and that samples and data are archived properly so they can be of best use for years to come.

Below are some additional images of the sea creatures we found in the Celtic Sea during our sampling.
Sea Creatures: Octopod

Sea Creatures: Polychaete Sea Mouse

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Working on the night shift

The scientists on RRS Discovery work all hours.  The ship is expensive to run and the Shelf Seas Biogeochemistry (SSB) Project has a lot of different tasks to achieve and it would not be possible to do this without working 24 hours a day.

What this means is that a small fraction of the scientists and crew on board need to adjust to working during the night. The shift that I have been allocated runs from 6 pm to 6 am. Getting into the swing of it is hard as your body clock adjusts but this is the third cruise in this project where I have been asked to work the night shift so I am getting used to it.  There are a few downsides: we miss all lunches and most breakfasts (although food is left out for us), we don’t see that much sunlight, and everyone’s day finishes as ours begins but there are lots of positives.

1.-   Sunset

Sunsets at sea are spectacular things.  The air is clear, the sky turns multi-coloured and the light reflects off the clouds. 

A spectacular sunset.
 2.- The big fauna comes out at night

 A lot of the larger creatures like the cover of darkness. So far on this cruise we’ve seen two different types of shark, a sunfish, dolphins, a whale, garfish and many jellyfish. A lot of the fauna get attracted to the lights on the boat that shine on the water while we are working. This means that as they approach the boat they are easy to spot. We regularly watch dolphins play around our sediment corer as it hits the water.

3.- The lab is quieter
The controlled temperature laboratory we use on board is possibly the busiest part of the ship.  It is a small lab in the middle of the ship where we keep the sediment we collect that is kept at the same temperature as the bottom of the sea. There are ten people working in there and bench and floor space is very limited.  All the space that will be used is planned out months in advance but when lots of people are working in there it can become very cramped. During the night shift the majority of those who use the lab are asleep so we get the chance to work knowing we won’t be in anyone’s way.

4.- Getting involved with everyone’s work
Because there are so few people working at night we all help to collect each other’s samples.  Over the three cruises I have had the chance to trawl for epibenthic megafauna (looking for large rarer invertebrates that live on the sediment surface), use a sediment profile imager (SPI) to make cross section images of the sediment water interface and helped deploy a large in situ flume (a device that sits on the seabed and creates a current that runs in a circle to look at how the mud and sand behave under different conditions).

SPI camera,
5.- Snacktime
The kitchen does not run 24 hours, so when we work nights there is no lunch put on. We eat dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner.  You can get lunch put aside but sometimes it’s more fun to create snacks from the leftovers of dinner, toast and buffet bar. Salad mountains, rum and raisin ice-cream granola, peanut butter, jam, banana and nutella sandwiches, potato salad baps, and anything you fancy.

6.- Sunrise
The sunrises are as spectacular as the sunsets, with the added knowledge that the nights work is almost over and it’s nearly time for bed as everyone else gets up.