March 10, 2006
My name is Karisa Gregorio. I attend St. Philip Neri School in Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania. I was wondering what you will do after you are done this trip. Will you regret going? Thank you.
Good question! After we finish the trip at Palmer station, we will be on the ship for five more days for the transit back to Punta Arenas, Chile. During the transit, we will cross the Drake Passage, the section of water between the Antarctic peninsula and the southern tip of Chile. This stretch of water is known for being very rough at times so we are crossing our fingers that we will have a relatively smooth crossing.
It is always a little sad to end a cruise. On trips like this you work very closely with everyone on board and spend very little time alone, so you end up “bonding” with people. It kind of reminds me of summer camp that way. Fortunately, I will see many of the cruise participants back home in Woods Hole or on future cruises or at scientific meetings.
When we get back to shore, I will be going backpacking for five days in a national park in Chile called Torres del Paine. It is supposed to be very beautiful and will be a good way to acclimate to being back on land before the long flight home to the U.S. Once I am home, there will be lots of data from the trip to look at and analyze and eventually publish in scientific journals.
Thank you for writing and I hope you have enjoyed learning about our expedition!
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Hi I'm Baldeep Dulku and I go to St. Micheals University School and I am
Brennan Phillips for this project. I was wondering why Brennan got picked to go on this expedition. Was it a difficult selection process?
Thanks for your question. I’m a graduate student at the University of Connecticut, and Patricia Kremer (one of the lead scientists on this expedition) is my advisor. This means that she provides a lot of guidance and support for my education, and in return I help out with her research. Luckily for me, Dr. Kremer is currently doing her work in Antarctica, and so I get to go with her! I’m also doing a lot of work during this cruise toward my master’s thesis, which is basically a big project that I have to complete in order to get my graduate degree. I consider myself very fortunate to be a part of this expedition, and I’m glad that you’ve been able to follow along as well.
Hi. My name is Jacob Duvenage and I go to St. Micheals School. I have become Brennan Phillips, who is on board your ship for my school project and I was wondering what one day is like on the boat. Thanks.
Each day is a little different on this cruise, but I can give you an idea of what my typical day is like. Since most of the work I do revolves around the salps that the divers collect at night, I sleep during the day and get up in the late afternoon (right before dinnertime). I'll then eat my “breakfast,” which is usually a full supper. Instead of cereal and a banana, I've been eating steak and potatoes to start my day.
I'll then spend the next few hours preparing for the night dive. If I'm scheduled as a diver, I have to prepare all of my gear. I also need to get a lot of things set up on board the ship to take care of the live salps that we collect. I'll try to get in a snack before the dive and then it's time to work.
Once the divers return, thing get very busy around here. I'll typically stay up past sunrise, eat some “breakfast” (dinner for me!) and head to bed before noontime. Before I know it, it's time to get up and do it all again. If I find some spare time in the day I'll usually work out in the ship's gym or catch up on sleep.
Thanks for your question, and good luck with your project!
Dear Lena M. Von Harbou,
My name is Dylan Harmon. I go to Southside Middle School in Batesville Arkansas. Are you enjoying what you are doing? If somebody wanted to take up into this, what would you say they should do? I think that what you are doing is very cool.
Thank you for writing us.
Some people might think that we are crazy—working a lot under bad weather conditions, far away from home, and with small critters most people have never heard of. But I do enjoy my work very much.
This cruise is a wonderful opportunity for me to work with lots of experts and with very good equipment. And the best thing is, even if it's in the middle of the night, people still have fun and make jokes all the time.
As I am interested in the feeding of salps, I profit from the divers who bring me animals and then I keep them in our aquarium room. There, we put the salps in buckets, which are kept in large tanks where seawater is constantly pumped through to keep the water cold. I then take water samples over a period of up to 24 hours from each bucket with salps. With those samples, I can later on determine if and how much the salps have eaten from the water. Larger salps can filter more than a gallon of water per hour and take out all the small algae that are in there.
Most colleagues and myself wanted to work as marine biologist or oceanographers after they took field classes during their time at college or university. That's where you learn most, and it's much more fun than a lecture! But you also have to like taking classes and doing things like math and chemistry because after a cruise or an experiment at home, there is still a lot of work to do, analyses, and computer work as well.
I really hope you enjoyed our cruise and check the site during our last days!
Thanks again for writing us.
Hello! This is David Kim from Jonas Clarke Middle School, Lexington, Mass.
My question is, why is Antarctica's food chain is so important? Is it because Antarctica is an undiscovered place?
The Antarctic food chain is important because it supports a lot of large animals that people are interested in, such as penguins, seals, and whales. It also provides some resources for people, including krill made into food for animals, and some fish caught in some parts of the Southern Ocean. Formerly a lot of whales were caught here, too, but that is now over, and the whales are protected.
Antarctica isn't completely undiscovered, but it is certainly less well explored than any other continent, and we still don't know everything about how the ocean ecosystem works.
Thanks for your question and for watching our expedition.
Hello Expedition 10! My sixth-grade science classes have been following your expedition. Everyone looks forward to the Daily Update. Every day a different group of students reads the information and reports to the class. We have gone to our media center to use the computers available there. The students were able to do more in-depth exploring of your terrific Web site. When my students were able to view the slide shows, they really got a sense of your daily activities.
Here are some questions that my students have asked:
- How do you choose the Critter of the Day?
- How was it decided on who would be able to join Expedition 10?
- Who is paying for this Expedition?
- Has anyone gotten sick (other than seasick)?
- How many different organisms have you collected so far.
- Was the accident (the broken block on Feb. 28) preventable?
- What is the biggest discovery you have made so far?
- How do you find the metabolic rate of salps (my question)?
Everyone thinks that you all eat really well.
Thank you so much for providing this opportunity to expose my students to research that is being done in real time and with real scientists. This is very exciting to me. You are doing a great job. Kudos to all.
Sixth-grade science teacher
Lincoln Middle School
Dear Mrs. Beck,
Thank you so much for having your class look in on the expedition. We really enjoy being able to talk to students and hope to keep them interested in science, biology, and the oceans. Here are some answers to the students' questions.
- We chose Critter of the Day by thinking about the organisms that make up this Antarctic ecosystem, then trying to build from the bottom of the food chain up to larger animals, using representative or common animals. We then looked for some really good photos that we could use! There are other animals here that we didn't include, either because we ran out of days, or because we don't have a suitable image. There are lots more species of amphipod, jellyfish, siphonophore, and many other plankton animals, for instance.
- The co-principal investigators, Larry Madin and Pat Kremer, wrote the research proposal to the National Science Foundation, Polar Programs, to fund this trip. When they were funded and received an assigned cruise date, they began inviting people who would contribute to the trip, through their experience, current research (such as Jun Nishikawa and Lena Von Harbou), or special expertise. They invited some who were graduate students working on their projects and tried to invite students who wanted to dive, as well. The people who were experts in the prototype instrument LAPIS were also invited. I am along as a writer, to put together information and photos for this Web site. In some cases, the people invited had time conflicts, and then there was an alternates list, and replacements were picked who filled the needs of the science and dive groups. Almost everyone along does oceanographic research of some kind.
- The costs are nearly all covered by the National Science Foundation, which awards grants to scientists through a peer-review process, funding permitting. Some costs are being borne by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (the writer's time, for instance.) The Web site is funded by both WHOI and NSF. Several of the people along have taken vacation time or leave and aren't drawing a full salary when here, and some are taking no salary and are along as volunteers, just for the opportunity.
- We have been fortunate that most have not been ill. Two scientists had terrible colds when they arrived, but they are much better. There's a rigorous medical check before you can come on a month-long Antarctic cruise, so everyone was "PQed" (physically qualified)!
- If you mean numbers of organisms, it must be in the millions, because there are so many tiny life forms we don't even see, then the larval krill (about the size of a period in this sentence), the copepods (about the size of a letter "o"), and thousands of salps. If you mean types of organisms, we have collected about 30 to 50 different kinds of animals.
- We're not sure what led to the accident with the block, and so we can't say if it was preventable. It's an unpredictable climate and difficult working conditions; sometimes things can happen to equipment that are just accidental. The important thing is to be aware and ready, and take every safety measure that is practical. We have been lucky, and we have been as cautious as possible±especially with diving! Safety is always first.
- I wish we knew! The biggest discovery may be one we don't know we've made yet! A lot of samples analyses will happen after we get back to our home labs. It could be how deep the salps go, or it could be Brenna's DNA work on whales (which she can't do at sea), or it could be something we find out about how much food the salps eat and how fast they build their populations here. Right now, it could be either the migration story of the salps, or the new LAPIS technology that is the most obvious new finding.
- The metabolic rates of delicate plankton can be measured, sometimes, by trying to find out how much oxygen they use up from the water they are in. Because the amount of oxygen they use is equivalent to their respiration, which is equivalent to their metabolic activity. If you put fresh, diver-caught salps into jars, measure the oxygen levels in the seawater where you caught them, and them wait various time periods to sample the oxygen levels in the jars, you can get a curve of oxygen use versus time. There are special respirometry chambers to use for this, but we don't have that equipment along on this cruise, so are doing oxygen measurements using a chemical reaction called the Winkler method, which results in a colored compound in the water that can be read in our spectrophotometer. The results are calculated back to the levels of oxygen. If you know the length of the salp and know from previous data the length-to-mass ratio, you can find a metabolic rate.
And yes, we eat too well. We are all thinking we'll diet at home!
Hope this answers your questions.
Larry Madin, chief scientist, and Kate Madin, writer
We've been learning about salp reproduction through your Hot Topics and my students have a few questions.
Kayla Mason asks, "How often do salps reproduce? Is there a season for salp reproduction?"
Makayla Tacker asks, "How can you tell the males from the females?"
Hallie Moser asks, "We read where females change into males after having their babies. Then the males fertilize the eggs. Are those the eggs left behind when they were females? Do male and female salps join together for fertilization?"
Dear Kayla, Makayla, and Hallie,
Thanks for your questions about salps and for watching our expedition. Here are some answers:
We think that salps reproduce continuously during the spring and summer down here, at least. It's possible that some reproduction also goes on in winter, but nobody has been here then to study it, so we don't really know. Other species of salps that live in other parts of the ocean seem to reproduce either in the spring and summer, or all year round. In most cases we still don't have really good information about this.
Although there are two distinct forms of the salps, the solitary and the aggregate, they are not the male and female. The solitary isn't either male or female; it reproduces asexually by making the chains of baby salps. The aggregate stage begins as female but then changes to being both female and male, and then after its baby is born, is just male.
The only way you can tell what stage the aggregate salp is in is to check for the presence of a developing embryo and testicular tissue (which makes the male sperm). If it has just the embryo, it's still female; if it has both, it's male and female, and if the embryo has been born, then it's just male. This seems strange, but many invertebrate animals are hermaphrodites, both sexes in one animal.
The eggs that get fertilized by the male aggregates are inside ovaries in new chains of baby salps released by the solitary stage. The males release sperm into the ocean and somehow (we don't really know yet) the sperm find the new chains, swim up inside them and into the ovary to fertilize the one egg there. We think this is a reason why the salps come up close to the surface at night, so that the males and the new baby chains will be closer together and have a better chance of fertilization.
The salps don't actually join or make any contact. The sperm just swim around in the water until they find the new salps. We think it's amazing that this works, but it apparently does.
Aaron Burgess asks, "What is the deepest dive you've ever done? What's the most fantastic thing you've seen under water?"
The deepest scuba dive I made was 210 feet, but usually our dives are not that deep, not more than 100 feet. The deepest submersible dive I made was about 1,500 meters (4,500 feet) in Alvin. I've also had some dives in other submersibles down to about 3,000 feet.
Some of the fantastic things we've seen while scuba diving include really long chains of salps, or huge siphonophores (relatives of jellyfish), or very large numbers (billions) of plankton animals, so thick you can hardly see through them. Also a few sharks, dolphins and whales.
Diving from submersibles, or using remote vehicles, we've seen some cool deep-sea squids and fish.
Thanks for checking out our expedition.