Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry blog

Showing posts with label DY029. Show all posts
Showing posts with label DY029. Show all posts

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The Mysterious NMF Fellows on DY029

Jon Short, National Marine Facilities Sea Systems, National Oceanography Centre

In other blog posts, both from this cruise and from previous cruises in the SSB programme, there have been references to the National Marine Facilities technicians but few added details. So just who are these mysterious fellows and what do they do?

National Marine Facilities Sea Systems (NMFSS) is the organisation who manage the RRS James Cook and the RRS Discovery and the National Marine Equipment Pool as well as providing technicians and engineers providing specialist support to NERC research cruises on both the NMFSS ships and other vessels.

Jon Short preparing the trace metal rosette and Niskin sampling bottles. Photo: Callum Whyte.

There are seven technicians from NMFSS on board Discovery for DY029; Rob (who looks after the mooring deployments and instrumentation), Alan (our mechanical engineer who looks after equipment ranging from deck winches to the machine that produces liquid nitrogen at -300oC), Jon (our IT expert, who makes sure that all of the vital data, from numerous instruments, is logged and recorded), Sam (who prepares and deploys the autonomous gliders) Robin and Colin (who are learning how to operate and maintain the two CTD systems on board) and me, another Jon (also looking after the CTD systems and, very loosely, in charge of the team).

The NMF team preparing to deploy a mooring. Photo: Alex Poulton.

For each cruise supported by NMFSS the preparation starts at least six months before the sail date when we meet with the senior scientists involved and discuss with them what they want to achieve and which pieces of equipment from the pool are best suited to gather the data. This equipment is then prepared for use on the required research cruise. For DY029 this involved the design of moorings and the procurement of hardware for these moorings, payloads for the autonomous gliders to be identified and fitted, laboratory containers to be fitted out to the specification of the scientists involved and instruments, fitted to the CTD frame and on the moorings, to be calibrated to very precise standards.

The NMF team and deck crew recovering a glider. Photo: Callum Whyte.

Once this is all complete the technical team and the ship's crew "mobilise" the vessel. This involves loading all of the equipment required (including everything the scientists bring), installing it on board and commissioning it for use. After the ship sails we provide 24 hour support, operating, maintaining and deploying equipment and making sure the scientific team have everything they need for a successful cruise.

The NMF team preparing the anchor chains for the moorings. Photo: Callum Whyte.

Monday, 13 April 2015

The breath of the ocean

My name is Jose Lozano and I am a PhD student from the University of Vigo, Spain. In this cruise (DY029), I work with  Elena Garcia, post-doc at the University of East Anglia, taking samples and doing  measurements of oxygen (O2) respiration in the Celtic Sea (Candyfloss) by using different methods, Optodes (optical sensor devices, which is designed to measure absolute oxygen concentration and % saturation), Electron Transport System and Winkler (a test used to determine the concentration of dissolved oxygen in water samples).

Net community production (NCP) is a measure of the net amount of carbon removed from the atmosphere, which represents the difference between Gross Primary Production (carried out by phytoplankton through the photosynthesis) and Dark Community Respiration (from both phyto and zooplankton). Plankton found in the world’s oceans are crucial to much of life on Earth. They are the foundation of the bountiful marine food web, produce half the world’s oxygen and suck up harmful carbon dioxide.  It is therefore vital for scientists to closely observe the oceanographic and biological variables related with these little buoyant organisms, temperature, nutrient content, light extinction or partial pressure existing in the water column.

During the cruise we have very busy schedules, not only the scientists but also the crew and  the technicians. They all work constantly, making the practice of science much easier, by cleaning, cooking, creating tools, or fixing devices. We, the scientists, couldn't make it without their support.

Dolphins, Photo: Jose Lozano

When you spend 24 hours a day in an oceanographic vessel, even in hours of rest, you feel very tempted to go on deck to chill out and breathe the fresh air at the stern. In a good day you can feel the ocean breathing gently and musically through the waves, the cool wind blowing on your face, you can observe the wildlife, the terns and the gannets flying over your head and families of common dolphins jumping playful just few meters away from the vessel. You can even see some land animals, such as owls, garden birds or little spiders, which are travelling with us on the ship. All these organisms, from the smallest diatom to the biggest marine mammal, breathe oxygen (though in the case of archaea or bacteria, other molecules may be used) in order to obtain energy from organic matter, so to be able to keep going.

Sandwich tern. Photo: Jose Lozano

Friday, 10 April 2015

DY029 Fe transect trilogy: The return of the Team Iron

Metal contamination free science on a metal ship: trace metal saga

Main characters:  The Incredible Team Iron

Maeve Lohan (University of Plymouth)
Antony Birchill (University of Plymouth)
Dagmara Rusiecka (University of Southampton/Geomar, Kiel)
Amber Annett (University of Edinburgh)

Metal contamination (Everywhere)

 . / . 

 DY029 Fe transect trilogy by Dagmara Rusiecka (University of Southampton/Geomar, Kiel): The return of the Team Iron 

It’s been less than four months since DY018 and ‘Team Iron’ is back on board RRS Discovery waiting with excitement for the first cast of the first iron transect…

Encouraging message from the Team Iron fan club onboard. Photo by Chata

April the 7
, 11PM, kick off: Team Iron is all dressed up in clean white Tyvek suits and white mop hats rushing around in the clean sampling lab. 24 grey bottles designed specifically for the trace metal sampling returned from 2500m and with gloved taps were very quickly transferred from the deck to the clean lab to minimize the risk of metal contamination. Now, they’re racked on the wall, safe, secured and ready for a solid 4 hour sampling session. Team Iron wearing ‘dirty’ gloves is tackling through sample bottles for other scientists; DOM (dissolved organic matter), SPM (suspended particulate matter), alkalinity, flow cytometry, chlorophyll a, oxygen, salinity. Finally, it’s time for the ‘clean’ gloves and the ‘clean’ samples!

In meantime, outside of the clean lab, Amber Annett is already waiting for the stainless steel rosette to return on deck with 480L of seawater just for Ra (Radium) isotope measurements at only a few depths! In plastic cubic containers she’s carrying 20L of seawater one by one on her shoulder to her container. She’s not only strong but also a lucky girl. No need to worry about the metal contamination but hey, she needs liters of seawater to detect the short-lived Ra 224 isotope! Therefore, the rosette is deployed again for another round and more water for Amber.

Team Iron in the zone of discussing results from DY018. Photo by Jose Lorenzo

All geared up with clean sampling clothing. Team Iron is tackling through ‘clean’ sample bottles.  5 liters for chromium isotopes, 1 liter for iron isotopes, 500 ml for copper speciation ……. It’s time for their own samples. 250 ml for iron speciation, one 125ml bottle for trace metals and one 125ml bottle for iron.

3 AM: Team Iron is packing samples from the first cast whilst the ship is already at the next station and the crew is ready for the next cast. “Here we go again guys! 6 stations to go!” and the process is starting all over again.

Rare and short appearance of 'Rosie' the trace metal clean titanium rosette with bottles on deck. Still with gloved taps, almost ready for the deployment. Photo by Dagmara Rusiecka

Coming up soon:
Volume two: The Two transects
Volume three: The Fellowship of the Iron: Final transect

So why do we do what we do?

As some of you may know, iron is an essential micronutrient to marine organisms present at very low concentration. It influences phytoplankton productivity, community structure and ecosystems and is a limiting factor on primary production in some regions. Our aim is to capture the mechanisms of iron off-shore transport to the open ocean that currently are unknown.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Exploring the shelf seas – hunting the spring bloom

Alex Poulton, National Oceanography Centre

After almost a week since arriving and saying farewell to the benthic (sea floor) scientists from DY021, the RRS Discovery sailed out of Southampton just after lunchtime on the 1st April on the second of this year’s Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry cruises. This cruise has a slightly different flavour to the last one – our focus is on the organisms living in the upper water column (pelagic), not in or around the bottom sediments. We hope to sample the plankton, tiny marine organisms that live in the water column, during one of the key periods in the seasonal diary of life in the ocean: the spring bloom. During spring, as temperatures get warmer and days get longer, phytoplankton, the tiny plants that form the base of the marine food chain have a growth spurt. This rapid increase in biomass provides a ready meal for the myriad of grazers present, and in this way the spring bloom fuels the food chain up to fish and beyond. To fuel this rapid growth, nutrients are required and the spring bloom rapidly diminishes the nutrient levels that have been present through the cold and dark winter. 

Picture 1 : 
The position of the Candyfloss site is shown on top of a satellite image (courtesy of NEODAAS) of chlorophyll (a pigment used for photosynthesis by marine plants, or phytoplankton) from late March. Colour changes from deep purple to green and yellow are indicative of increasing biomass of phytoplankton. Eventually patches of red will appear indicating that the spring bloom is well underway. 

Across the four weeks of this cruise we will travel to various sites within the Celtic Sea in order to build up a time-series of observations of the spring bloom as it happens, in terms of how it changes the water chemistry, how its biological components (bacteria, plants and animals) interact with one another, and how the physical environment of a shelf sea influences its formation and structure. To do all this work takes a huge team of scientists and technicians, and a top of the range research ship manned by skilled and experienced crew. Onboard we have 30 scientists and technicians, from nine different research institutes and universities across the UK. 

Picture 2 : 
One of the key sampling instruments for the cruise – a CTD (Conductivity-Temperature-Depth) probe with large grey bottles attached for collecting sea water returning to the surface with the first of our samples. (Picture by Jose Lozano).

ince sailing from Southampton on the 1st April we have been making our way out to one of our key sites for the next few weeks: ‘CANDYFLOSS’ or the ‘Central Celtic Sea’ (Picture 1). This evening we briefly stopped to test some of the sampling equipment we use to collect water – a CTD (oceanographic instrument used to determine the conductivity, temperature, and depth of the ocean, see Picture 2 below). Our ETA is around lunchtime tomorrow, after a short stop at first light to pick up one of the gliders that has been monitoring conditions out here for the last few weeks. When we arrive at CANDYFLOSS, work will begin in earnest as we recover the moored instruments which we left here last November, put new batteries in them, download the data they have recorded, and plonk them back in again. As always on a ship, tomorrow is going to be a long day.