Panama Coral Reefs

Panama Coral Reefs

Antarctic SeaScience

Antarctic SeaScience

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Documentary Film Release!

After such an exciting and successful expedition to Antarctica earlier this year, our Outreach Specialist, Allison Randolph, has produced a documentary film to share our team's experience.

Film is an extremely effective means of communication in that it combines both audio and visual elements.  Because scientific research can sometimes be difficult to communicate to the general public, our team felt video would be a great way to educate and inform the public about our research expedition.

Watch our Antarctic SeaScience Expedition film for a peek into the world of deep sea exploration, ocean science, and Antarctic adventure!

The goal of the film is to educate and inspire people of all ages about ocean science and exploration, as well as help people of all ages to better understand our Antarctic king crab research.

Thank you to everyone who has helped, supported, and learned from us along the way!

Watch our film on vimeo: Antarctic SeaScience Expedition

Our team of researchers from FIT, UAB, WHOI, and Uni Southampton in Antarctica.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Expedition Success!

Having just arrived back in Punta Arenas, Chile, our Antarctic expedition has officially come to an end.

Reflecting back over the last few weeks, our team has managed to execute a very successful research expedition!

In imaging over 400,000 square meters of the Antarctic deep seafloor, we were able to create a picture of this greatly unstudied area of the ocean.  We were able to successfully photograph hundreds of king crabs on the Antarctic continental slope, as well as all the other organisms that make up this unique community, and even discover some whale falls along the way.

One of the many images taken of a king crab on the Antarctic deep seafloor.

SeaSled, our underwater camera vehicle, being lowered into the water.
This instrument took over 250,000 photographs of the seafloor in the last three weeks.

Our team also had great success in collecting samples from the Antarctic deep seafloor, despite the immense difficulties involved in sampling at such deep ocean depths.  We were able to successfully collect king crabs from the Antarctic deep seafloor, as well as many of the other species of organisms that call this extreme environment their home.

One of the king crabs we collected from the Antarctic deep seafloor.

A brittle star collected using a trawl net.
Although our expedition is at its end, there are still so many conclusions and discoveries to be made as our team analyzes the data and samples we've collected.

As we say a bitter sweet goodbye to our research vessel, we are excited about the immense potential for new scientific discoveries to be made about this incredible and unstudied part of the world.

Our team in Marguerite Bay, on the Western Antarctic Peninsula.  Team members from Florida Institute of Technology, University of Alabama Birmingham, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Goodbye Antarctica, Hello Drake Passage

Yesterday we officially left Antarctic waters and started across the Drake Passage on our way back to Punta Arenas, Chile.

On our last day in Antarctica we were fortunate enough to have had some of the most beautiful weather and scenery of the whole trip.

Shortly after leaving Palmer Station we went through the Neumeyer Channel, a relatively narrow channel with snow and ice covered mountains jutting straight up out of the ocean on either side.

And with blue skies, sunshine, and very light winds, the scenery was absolutely spectacular.  A great final image of Antarctica as we said farewell.

A high, snow covered peak rising up from the ocean.
The mountains here are an extension of the Andes mountain range in South America.

Clear blue skies made a beautiful backdrop for the scenery in the Neumeyer Channel.

Now, crossing the Drake, conditions are about the opposite.

There is no land in sight, 30-40 mph winds, and 15-20 foot seas.

The view out one of the ship's portholes while crossing the Drake Passage.

Waves splashing up into view from the bridge of the ship.

And although one situation is seemingly "better" than the other, they are both equally as spectacular to witness.

We are set to arrive back in Punta Arenas in two days and our team is enjoying all of the variable weather and scenery during these last few days!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Antarctica: Where the Green Grass Grows

Antarctica is a frozen desert.

Snow and ice covered mountains rise up from the ocean, icebergs float by, and glaciers cover the rocky land beneath them.

These landscape features result in many shades of white, blue, black, brown, and gray.

But if you look a little closer, you can actually find some shades of green.

Surprisingly enough, there are actually two species of flowering plants that live and grow in Antarctica.

Deschampsia antarctica is a species of grass that grows in small tufts on the rocks above the shoreline.  Collabanthus is a low lying plant species closely related to chrysanthemums which blooms tiny yellow flowers during certain times of the year.

Both of these plants are able to survive being covered up by snow and ice during the harsh Antarctic winter, and simply start to grow again as summer approaches and the snow cover melts.

Tufts of grass growing among the snow covered rocks.

A fur seal sitting among fairly large patches of grass.

Beyond plants, there are several species of moss that grow here in Antarctica, ranging from bright green to brown, as well as many species of lichens which range from pale green to bright orange.

Green and brown moss covering some of the rocky terrain. 

Bright orange lichens covering some jagged rocks.
Lichens are an organism made from a symbiotic relationship between algae and fungus.

Having been off-shore for several weeks, seeing only shades of white, gray, and blue, even these little bits of color truly stood out to our team when we had the opportunity to go ashore recently.  And as we make our way back to South America in a few days, our team will be much more aware of all the different plant species flourishing there!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Climate Change Before Your Eyes

One of the biggest reasons why human-induced climate change is so difficult to understand is that it's often difficult to see the effects of it.

Because climate is the average of weather conditions over long periods of time, most people don't regularly see the effects of a changing climate in their day to day lives.

But a few visits to Palmer Station, Antarctica can surely show you how the Earth's climate is rapidly changing.

Palmer Station is a United States research station on the Western Antarctic Peninsula, positioned on a small spit of land that juts into a beautiful bay, with a massive glacier in it's backyard.

Palmer Station
Whether you ask a scientist that has been visiting Palmer Station for decades, or someone who has only been visiting for a few years, they will tell you how much they've seen the glacier retreat.

Due to slightly warming temperatures, each year, as summer approaches and the snow cover melts, so does some of the glacier.

On average, the edge of the glacier behind Palmer Station retreats about 30 feet every year.

Only fifty years ago, the edge of the glacier used to sit directly behind the buildings of Palmer Station, with almost no space between the two.  Now, it lies more than 500 meters (1,650 feet) from the far edge of the station.

Scientists at Palmer Station have been marking the edge of the glacier since 1963
using GPS instruments.  This satellite image was taken in 2008.

So much of climate science is conducted at the poles because the more extreme the environment, the more the effects of climate change show.  And the clear evidence shown here on the Western Antarctic Peninsula serves as an indicator of the magnitude of the potential changes that could occur throughout the rest of the world.

As our team leaves Palmer Station, we are appreciative to have been able to see the glacier first-hand, walk on the land that has been covered by ice for millions of years, and hear personal accounts from scientists who have watched the glacier retreat with their own eyes.  The more informed and aware we all are, the better we can make changes to combat the effects of human-induced climate change in the present and future.