2016-2017 Science Planning Summaries
United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo
2016-2017 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Collaborative Research: Fjord Ecosystem Structure and Function on the West Antarctic Peninsula - Hotspots of Productivity and Biodiversity? (FjordEco)

no photo available


Event Number:

Program Manager:
Dr. Charles Amsler

ASC POC/Implementer:

Principal Investigator

Dr. Maria Vernet

Scripps Institution of Oceanography
La Jolla, California


Supporting Stations: RV/IB Nathaniel B. Palmer
Research Locations:


Western Antarctic Peninsula Fjords appear to be intense, potentially climate sensitive, hotspots of biological production and biodiversity, yet the structure and dynamics of these fjord ecosystems are very poorly understood. Our field program will address the following objectives: (1) determine whether sub-polar WAP fjords are regionally significant hotspots of productivity and biodiversity; (2) Elucidate and model the physical, biological and chemical processes that interact in these fjords to enhance productivity and biodiversity; (3) Evaluate through dynamic modeling the sensitivity of physical, chemical and biological processes driving WAP fjord productivity/diversity to changes in meltwater and sediment input. These objectives will be addressed with an integrated field program of three research cruises using the RV LM Gouldand RVIB NB Palmer in the spring and fall of the 2015-1016 field season, and the fall of the 2017 season, to evaluate physical oceanographic processes, phytoplankton dynamics, and benthic community structure and function in a sub-polar glacio-marine fjords (Andvord), and the Gerlache Strait along the West Antarctic Peninsula.

Field Season Overview

This field season will involve two process cruises. Cruise 1 on the RV Gould (covered by this SIP) will be in Nov-Dec 2015, with field sites along the West Antarctic Peninsula (Navy Op Area AN09) within a 50-mile radius of Palmer Station (i.e., within 50 nm of 64 44’S, 63 53’ W). Field sites include: Andvord Bay (centered on 64° 50’S, 62° 39’ W), Gerlache Strait (centered on 64° 39’S, 62° 56’W) and Station B (64° 48’S, 65° 21’ W). Water depths at all these stations are 400-650 m. Cruise 1 will support 24 science days to collect physical oceanographic, plankton, and benthic ecological data. The following activities are planned:

- Deployment of two grantee-supplied subsurface physical oceanographic moorings, one in the middle basin of Andvord Bay and one in the Gerlache Strait (positions to be determined). - Deployment of two grantee-supplied McLane sediment traps, one below sill depth in the quiescent middle basin of Andvord Bay at 150 meters above bottom (approximate location 64° 51.5'S, 62° 34'W), and one at 150 meters from the bottom on the open shelf at Station B. - Deployment a grantee-supplied digital seafloor time-lapse camera in middle basin of Andvord Bay (approximate location 64° 51.5'S, 62° 34'W). - Deployment of two grantee-supplied digital glacier time-lapse cameras with temperature sensors glacial termini in inner Andvord Bay (approximate locations 64° 54.014'S, 62° 33.741'W and 64° 53.215'S, 62° 27.004'W). - Deployment of two grantee-supplied Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) with digital cameras, one at Neko Harbor in mid-Andvord Bay (approximate location 64° 50.67'S, 62° 31.41'W) and one on an islet in Gerlache Strait (approximate 64° 42.40'S, 62° 45.86'W). Neko Harbor is a Site with Visitor Guidelines and therefore a visit to this site will require that the visit be reported in the Marine End of Cruise report. A party of 6 people will be needed for deployment, 2 days per AWS, a total of 4 day trips. - Deploy a USAP-supplied CTD with attached shipboard ADCP in both Andvord Bay and in the adjacent Gerlache Strait, and at Station B. - Conduct towed AUV/Acrobat surveys in Andvord Bay and in the adjacent Gerlache Strait with grantee-supplied equipment. - Perform plankton tows to collect phytoplankton and krill using USAP-supplied plankton nets. - Conduct five Megacore lowerings using the USAP Megacore, each with twelve 10-cm diameter tubes, at random locations in each of the inner, middle and outer basins of Andvord Bay, Gerlache Strait, and at Station B (total successful Megacore lowerings = 25). - Conduct three USAP-supplied Yo-Yo camera surveys at random locations in each of the inner, middle and outer basins of Andvord Bay, Gerlache Strait, and at Station B, yielding a total of 15 Yo-Yo camera surveys over the course of the cruise. - Conduct two USAP-supplied Blake trawls at random locations in each of the inner, middle and outer basins of Andvord Bay, Gerlache Strait, and at Station B, for a total of ten Blake trawls over the course of the cruise. - Acquire three box cores (using the USAP box corer) in each of the inner, mid and outer basins of the fjords, and in the Gerlache Strait, for total of 12 box cores over the course of the cruise. - Deploy two grantee-supplied AUV gliders using small boat operations. The gliders will be deployed only during the cruises and remain in Punta Arenas between cruises. - Deploy a grantee provided vertical micro profiler ~10 times. - Outreach: trips on Zodiac to take photographies and videos of ocean and land by photojournalist Maria Stenzel. Underwater camera will be used as well. - Outreach: if NSF approves, deployment of quadricopter (drone) with GoPro camera, 20 minute flights - Outreach: deployment of time-lapse camera on the bridge

PLANKTON ECOLOGY – In addition to the list provided above, we will do - Collection of phytoplankton and zooplankton biomass with nets, vertical tows and 1-m MOCNESS - Primary production incubations with radioactive carbon; Photosynthesis vs Irradiance incubations and 24-h on deck incubations. Sample preparation and analysis in a rad van provided by USAP. - Incubation on deck with stable isotopes (15-N) for ammonium and nitrate uptake - Cultures in Percival incubator with light and temperature control, incubator provided by USAP - Filtration of phytoplankton for analysis of chlorophyll a concentration, particulate suspended Carbon-Hydrogen-Nitrogen, and chromatographic analysis. - Analysis of sediments: freeze dry samples with instrument provided by grantee and weigh sediments with motion-compensated scale provided by USAP.. - Photosynthetic efficiency of phytoplankton with FIRe from Satlantic, provided by USAP - Microscopic analysis of samples: FlowCam provided by USAP. - Analysis of chlorophylls with Turner Designs fluorometer and spectrophotometer provided by USAP. - Optical properties: in situ irradiance by deployment of PRR and particle properties with spectrophotometer and spectrofluorometer in the lab (all instruments provided by USAP). - Analysis of nutrients with nutrient analyzer. Instrument and technician provided by grantee. - Collection of photographs in the fjord and on land with Zodiac access. - Access to aquarium to place small glass aquaria for photographer (only NBP 16-03 cruise) - Collection of trace-metal-clean samples at depth using a non-metallic hydroline, block, and teflon-coated GO-Flos provided by grantee. GO-Flos will be directly mounted on hydroline and fired with teflon messengers. Samples will be acidified or frozen and transported to US for analysis.

- Lab space for TMC work - positive pressure clean area with laminar flow unit(s) required for sample filtration and handling. - Collection of TMC samples from near-surface waters with teflon air-driven diaphragm pump, teflon tubing. - Collection of TMC samples from surface waters with a pole sampler - plastic bottles mounted on a plexiglass holder on a pole. - Fe incubations: on deck in USAP-provided incubators

Deploying Team Members

  • Lindsey Ekern
  • Kiefer Forsch
  • Diana Gutierrez Franco
  • Lauren Manck
  • Boyang Pan
  • Maria Stenzel
  • Maria Vernet (PI)