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Week 1 at Palmer Station

Updated: Apr 11, 2020

Well, it's been one whole week since we arrived at Palmer Station and we've barely had a moment to look up and appreciate this incredible place we're in. Before I get ahead of myself though, I need to back up about 10 days, to our first krill collection night.

On Thursday, April 18, we started our search for young krill at about 10pm, working through the night until 8am the following morning and then starting again that evening after dinner. We began in the northern part of the Croker Passage (see Google Earth map below), spending most of Thursday night there. Then, we moved south through the Gerlache Strait and into Wilhelmina Bay. We caught our first big catch in the Croker Passage and our second in Wilhelmina Bay.

Google Earth Pro map showing the regions where we caught the krill, Croker Passage and Wilhelmina Bay. The location of Palmer Station is also shown.

It was an exciting two nights! Many of the other people on board the ship signed up to volunteer helping us through the night and we couldn't have done it without them. Here are some photographs showing the whole process, taken by Dr. Julie Schram of the #AntarcticSeaweedGradients team.

This is the Isaacs-Kidd Midwater Trawl (IKMT), the net that we used to catch the krill. Here, it is coming on deck after being towed through a large krill swarm.

The cod-end (that bucket at the end of the net) is where all the krill (and other zooplankton) get collected during the net tow. Here, we are preparing to remove the cod-end and look at our catch.

Once we have removed the cod-end, we carefully empty it into large containers so we can sort through the catch.

We had a lot of volunteers, all wanting to help collect the juvenile krill that we will spend the next 6 months working on. We scooped them out of the catch using stainless steel sauce ladels that were just the right size to distinguish juvenile krill from the adults. It's amazing how many kitchen utensils I use in my research.

Once we had selected enough actively swimming juvenile krill, we placed them in a larger tank for transport to Palmer Station.

We arrived at Palmer Station on Sunday, April 21, and our krill were the first to be off-loaded. The crew on the R/V Laurence M. Gould and at Palmer Station were instrumental in making this happen and I'm still not sure how they actually managed to pull it off! The R/V Laurence M. Gould held station in Arthur Harbor (just off Palmer Station) and a landing craft (smaller boat) from Palmer came up alongside the Gould. Our 2 large tanks of krill were then hoisted up off the ship and down onto the landing craft by crane. They were then transported over to Palmer Station where they were met by a Sky Trak forklift that lifted the tanks up off the landing craft and carried them along the Palmer Station pier to the boardwalk/deck where they were gently placed and picked up by a pallet-jack and wheeled over to the aquarium room where they now sit. It was a beautiful piece of logistical magic.

Since arriving at Palmer Station, we have literally not stopped. Yesterday, we were finally able to move the krill into their experimental treatment tanks and tomorrow we will begin our first time point sampling. This will involve a series of experiments run over the week, in which we will calculate a suite of physiological measurements including respiration rates (how fast they are breathing), egestion rates (how fast they are pooping), assimilation efficiency (how much of what they eat is retained inside them) and growth rates.

We've been doing a lot to get ready for these experiments and Kirsten and Julia have been super stars, working so hard to help make this happen. I'm going to get them to write a blog with their news soon too - they'll update us on their boating outings to collect copepods, their light trap design (also to collect copepods, and other potential prey items to feed the krill), and various things they've been up to in the labs, so stay tuned.

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