Shelf Sea Biogeochemistry blog

Friday 27 March 2015

Docked in Southampton

Louis Byrne, British Oceanographic Data Centre, NOC

31 hours and a few minutes after the last CTD at the shelf edge the RRS Discovery docked in Southampton, and the cruise is finally over. A big thank you to all of the scientists, technicians and crew both at sea and on land that have been working so tirelessly on the Shelf Seas Biogeochemistry (SSB) project to get us this far, and who will continue to work just as hard over the coming months to complete the remaining SSB cruises.

Talking of future SSB cruises, the next one begins in only 5 days’ time and will be investigating pelagic processes in the Celtic Sea, as opposed to the benthic (sea-floor)  processes that we have been looking at in this blog. Spare a thought for Amber Annett (University of Edinburgh) who will be going on this one as well!

Malcolm Woodward

Last but not least, a big big thank you to Malcolm Woodward (Plymouth Marine Laboratory), the Chief Scientist for this cruise, whose tireless efforts have got us to the end in one piece.  Malcolm has been working none-stop over the past 26 days, planning, re-planning and re-re-planning (sometimes over the course of a single afternoon) to adapt to the various hurdles that scientific research at sea will inevitably provide, however he’s  kept a calm head throughout. 

DY021 Team photo

Well done and get some rest!

Tuesday 24 March 2015

Shrinking Styrofoam Cups

Louis Byrne, British Oceanographic Data Centre, NOC

We’ve done it!  A day of sampling at CANDYFLOSS was followed by a quick jaunt to the shelf edge to pick up some gilders and do a few CTDs and the data collection phase of the cruise is officially over. The final CTD of the day was performed off the shelf edge to a depth of 1000m, and a few of the scientists decorated polystyrene cups and attached them to the CTD rosette. This is a bit of a tradition on oceanography cruises, as the pressure at 1000m causes the cups to shrink in size, producing quaint miniature decorations like the one pictured.

Polystyrene cups post CTD. Designs by Dicky Deal.

We’re now steaming from the shelf edge back to Southampton, a journey which will take approximately 36 hours. The work doesn’t finish then however, as the data that has been collected during this cruise will need to be processed, analysed and then written up into scientific papers. These papers will then be peer reviewed and published in scientific journals, contributing to the advancement of our understanding of key biogeochemical processes in the shelf edge.

The data meanwhile will be sent to the British Oceanographic Data Centre (BODC) where they will be archived along with all of their associated metadata. In doing so the final datasets produced by this project will be preserved for future use, and will eventually be made available to the public free of charge (access to the data will be restricted for a few years to give the researchers responsible for collecting the data the chance to write their papers before the data are made publicly available).

Monday 23 March 2015

Picking up the marine glider

Louis Byrne, British Oceanographic Data Centre, NOC

We arrived at CANDYFLOSS early Monday morning and immediately got into the swing of things with some early morning CTD casts and then NIOZ coring. Between the two we briefly left the site to pick up a marine glider, an instrument which is one of the latest developments in marine research.

Marine glider shortly before being picked up after three months at sea.

Once released into the water, marine gliders are controlled remotely by scientists working for Marine Autonomous Robotics Services (MARS) based in Southampton. They are capable of gliding around the ocean for months at a time and thus are very useful for gaining valuable long term data. They can move up and down the water column by changing their volume and are steered either using rudders or by shifting their mass to one side or the other.

Gliders are useful because they can stay out for a lot longer than your average research cruise, and because they transmit their data remotely to land every time they surface the scientists at MARS can inspect the data almost immediately and find areas of the ocean which are of interest, such as the locations of fronts. Gliders can then be programmed to stay in these scientifically interesting areas gathering useful data. They are also able to work in all conditions, whereas ship based research cannot be performed during times when the weather conditions are too rough to be able to safely deploy instruments over the side of the ship. Autonomous instruments such as gliders are not going to replace ship based research, but the hope is that they will be able to further the capabilities of ocean science and remove some ship based tasks from current research programmes.

Dolphin watching on the RRS Discovery
As well as having sensors measuring chlorophyll, salinity, temperature and oxygen, these gliders also have acoustic monitoring devices used to listen for calls made by whales or dolphins, with the acoustic data being sent back to scientists at St. Andrews University to analyse. This particular glider appears to have been sent to an excellent location to listen for cetaceans, as we had only been at CANDYFLOSS for a few hours when the ship was surrounded by a pod of 8-16 (uneducated guess) common dolphins. This pod stayed around the ship most of the day, and seemed in their element racing the bow as we moved between stations.

Dolphins! (photo by Malcolm Woodward)