2017-2018 Science Planning Summaries
United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo
2017-2018 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Palmer, Antarctica Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER): Land-shelf-ocean connectivity, ecosystem resilience and transformation in a sea-ice influenced pelagic ecosystem

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Event Number:
NSF/OPP Award 1440435

Program Manager:
Dr. Jennifer Burns

ASC POC/Implementer:
Samina Ouda / Jamee Johnson / Adam Jenkins

Principal Investigator

Dr. Deborah Steinberg

Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences
Department of Biological Sciences
Gloucester Point, Virginia

Project Web Site:


Supporting Stations: ARSV Laurence M. Gould, Palmer Station
Research Locations: LTER study site / Palmer Station


Palmer Long-Term Ecological Research (PAL-LTER) started in 1990 to address the hypothesis that the annual sea ice cycle may be the major determinant of spatial/temporal changes in the structure and function of Antarctic marine communities. Research now includes bacteria, viruses, phytoplankton, krill, macrozooplankton, penguins, seabirds, and marine mammals. The PAL-LTER model traces the effects of changing climate, and the extent, duration, and seasonality of sea ice on ecosystem composition and dynamics in the Western Antarctic Peninsula, where satellite observations over the past 35 years indicate the average duration of sea ice cover is now about 90 days shorter. Six collaborative projects deploy on January’s ARSV Laurence M. Gould cruise and/or to Palmer Station. Team members use airborne and underwater vehicles, moorings, numerical modeling, oceanographic cruises, and environmental sampling to address core hypotheses.

Field Season Overview

Five team members will sail on the January-mid-February cruise aboard the ARSV Laurence M. Gould (LMG) to the LTER research grid west of the Antarctic Peninsula. The team will carry out repeated sampling with the CTD Rosette and nets at historical LTER grid stations and other locations when possible. The group aims to do approximately three net tows at each station. They will use the 1 m MOCNESS to sample discrete depth horizons at the process study stations and at a few of the regular grid stations, if possible. They will use an acoustic tow fish at process study stations to detect krill aggregations.

Two team members will be based at Palmer Station from late October to early April and will focus on the comprehensive sampling of the zooplankton community structure and grazing. They will conduct net tows and concurrent acoustic surveys twice per week at LTER Stations B and E as other LTER groups are sampling. Each station will consist of approximately five net tows. The team will require up to two additional weekly trips to Palmer Deep. Participants will collect live animals and water samples for zooplankton feeding experiments. They will incorporate acoustic surveys and net tows with all LTER field teams, focusing on sampling krill swarms in predator foraging areas.

Deploying Team Members

  • John Conroy
  • Joseph Cope
  • Andrew Corso
  • Collen Mcbride
  • Kharis Schrage
  • Patricia Thibodeau
  • Leigh West