Palmer LTER

During my PhD, I spent a total of 12 months over 4 seasons working at Palmer Station, Antarctica, or at sea nearby on the R/V Laurence M Gould. My PhD advisor, Oscar Schofield, is one of the Principal Investigators of the Palmer Station Long Term Ecological Research Project, which began in 1993 with the goal of understanding the long-term trends of the West Antarctic Peninsula coastal ocean ecosystem.

While I consider myself a physical oceanographer, I spent a quite bit of time at Palmer pretending to be a biologist. Oscar is in charge of the phytoplankton component of the program which includes a long time series of biological sampling.

At Palmer, we go out twice a week on our trusty Zodiac research platform, Bruiser, and collect water samples. We bring water from several depths back to the lab and measure phytoplankton biomass, rates of primary production, and phytoplankton health. We also measure the physical and optical properties of the water column so we can relate the physical environment to the biology.


Water sampling at Palmer Station

This is what water sampling looks like on a (very atypical) beautiful, calm, clear day in the Antarctic. (Edited by Ashley Goncalves.)

Under-ice sampling

(Video edited by Ashley Goncalves.) The sea ice kept us from water sampling until late November in 2015, so we set up an experiment using water we collected from beneath the sea ice in Arthur Harbor. The general idea was to see how fast phytoplankton grow after sea ice disappears in the spring and more light is available. We kept our water samples in screened carboys in a large tank outside where pumped sea water kept everything cold. Every couple days, we performed our usual suite of experiments to determine phytoplankton growth rate, biomass, and health. You can read more about the experiment on Jeff Bowman’s blog.


Using Robots to Study Climate Change (Antarctic Edge, 70° South blog)