Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry blog

Showing posts with label Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry. Show all posts

Tuesday 5 May 2015

The Start: DY030

4th May 2015 saw the commencement of DY030 aboard the RRS Discovery, the latest cruise in the Shelf-Sea Biogeochemistry (SSB) programme. The aim of the NERC Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry research programme is to take a holistic approach to the cycling of nutrients and carbon, and the controls on primary and secondary production in UK and European Shelf Seas, and to increase understanding of these processes and their role in wider biogeochemical cycles.

RRS Discovery. Photo credit: Jessy Klar
Of the 4 main work packages this cruise will mainly focus on Work Package 2 (Biogeochemistry, macronutrient and carbon cycling in the benthic layer) and Work Package 3 (The Supply of Iron from Shelf Sediments to the Ocean), but with facets of the CANDYFLOSS Pelagic Work package. All Work packages contribute to the overall Integrated modelling effort of Work Package 4.

Aboard RRS Discovery. Photo credit: Richard Cooke
This mainly benthic focussed cruise is the third of four benthic cruises following on from DY008 in Spring 2014 and DY021 in March 2015. DY030 will include the use of a number of benthic lander systems, Autosub 3, gliders, benthic trawl equipment, benthic flumes, CTD water column sampling, Sediment Profile Imaging (SPI) camera and various coring systems.

Saturday 4 April 2015

Three, two, one … go! .... Welcome to the Central Celtic Sea!

Chata Seguro, PhD student,  University of East Anglia

It is 4th of April, 10 am and we have just finished almost all of the work for the day. Many of the SSB (Shelf Sea Biochemistry) scientists had a very early morning, rising at 2:30am for the first pre-dawn CTD of the cruise. 

Why we are doing all the work so early in the morning? 

Because we need to catch the phytoplankton while they are not fully active, so that we can start our measurements and experiments early and follow their activity throughout the day. There was a bit  of confusion and “moving in slow motion" at the first CTD, but  the usual pre-dawn rhythm quickly set in, followed by two glider deployments, and then another CTD after that. 

The last rays of sunlight disappear behind the clouds the night before the first pre-dawn.

Sunset was quickly followed by many scientists disappearing as well to rest a few hours
 before the early CTD. Photo: Chata Seguro

The deployment of the sea-gliders later in the morning, appeared to act as a big colourful toy for the local dolphins as a large school of them, including baby dolphins, appeared on the horizon just after the glider deployment. They remained around during breakfast, but unfortunately, I did not manage to take any photos. Soon after breakfast, I decided to try a  trick that worked well one night during the cruise last November - to whistle to them! And .... they came! But once the large yellow toy disappeared under the waves, the dolphins  couldn't find anything interesting to play with, so they left as fast as they came. To my disappointment, no photos, but still great to see them coming after just a few whistles! It is thanks to Charlotte Williams, a physical oceanographer, that I am able to post a picture of dolphins playing around during the glider deployment (picture below)


Dophins playing around the Seaglider and ship.
Photo by: Charlotte Williams.

Dophins playing around the RRS Discovery.
Photo by: Charlotte Williams.

Apart from seeing the playful dolphins, it is always great to see scientists in action. James Fox and myself (both PhD students) enjoy comparing how our daily peaks of photosynthesis and oxygen production match on our instruments, which are set up next to one another in the main laboratory of the ship.

A few minutes ago, there was another call for another CTD and scientists were already queuing to sample the CTD. Suddenly, Robin (our NMF technician) shouted: "three, two, one … go!" It is the Central Celtic Sea and we were ready!

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.