Updated: Apr 11, 2020
After members of the Bernard Lab spent this past Antarctic winter (April-October 2019) at Palmer Station, Anvers Island at the Western Antarctic Peninsula (WAP), we are back again, this time as part of the interdisciplinary and multi-institutional team, Project SWARM. The WAP region has historically been an area of interest as a region of exceptionally high biomass, or a biological hotspot. At more localized scales, ocean currents and bathymetry were previously thought to aggregate primary producers and our favorite keystone species, krill. The krill then provide an abundance of prey for marine mammals, birds, and other predators! Off of Palmer Station such a biological hotspot exists over the submarine canyon, Palmer Deep Canyon. The SWARM team is interested in analyzing the mechanisms that concentrate krill in Palmer Deep. Prior theory has suggested that bathymetry such as Palmer Deep, causes the upwelling of cold, nutrient-rich water that supports the growth of primary producing phytoplankton that krill feed on. Earlier observations by our team have led us to consider that the horizontal transport and currents may have more of an impact in driving Palmer Deep’s biological hotspot than upwelling. Over the next few months, we will utilize a variety of oceanographic tools and tactics to study the physical mechanisms that drive the biology of Palmer Deep Canyon. The SWARM team, consisting of physical and biological oceanographers and ecologists from Oregon State University, Rutgers University, University of Delaware, and the University of Alaska Fairbanks met in Punta Arenas, Chile in late December 2019 to start their journey to Anvers Island, Antarctica aboard the R/V Laurence M. Gould for the 2019-2020 austral summer field season. Together, we spent the start of 2020 crossing the Drake Passage and travelling through the Peninsula’s beautiful Gerlache Strait and Neumayer Channel. Since then we have settled into life at Palmer and look forward to bringing you all along on the journey!