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Every time we go diving to collect samples for our experiments (or food for the organisms we are maintaining in our experiments) we get a little by-catch. The by-catch we get is generally very small and either some type of invertebrate or seaweed that we weren’t necessarily intending to catch. Depending on what we are collecting there is a varying abundance and diversity of our by-catch. We commonly get a wide range of sizes of snails and limpets as well as amphipods and small sea stars.

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The day I prepared to leave Palmer Station, I took a final glimpse from my dorm window at the splendid architecture of the glacier. I finally had an opportunity to climb the glacier and walk to its far side, days before I left. Crossing the field of boulders in the back yard, separating Palmer Station from the glacier, was a long walk. I eventually reached the glacier and began my ascent, aided by the spikes I affixed to my boots for stability on the ice. I climbed higher and higher; soon, Palmer Station was barely visible.

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The Gould arrived in the afternoon earlier this week bringing from Chile the ever-anticipated resupply of freshies. Oh yes, that evening we dined on salad and fresh fruit off-loaded from the ship just a few short hours before all queued up to the station’s short cafeteria line. The freshies are at the end of the line so all made sure to grab a bowl or leave plenty of room on the plate for a mound of greenery.

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Scuba diving is a central part of our research here. We call it "Dive Ops" which is short for Diving Operations. All our experimental manipulations on this project are done in the lab but since the organisms we are studying live along the bottom of the ocean (described then as benthic organisms), Dive Ops are critical in order to collect them and their food. Today Julie and I needed to dive to collect food for the amphipods (shrimp-like animals) that she is working with in the lab and also some more amphipods for upcoming experiments.

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It is a fantastic opportunity to be able to live and work in Antarctica. It is no less fantastic this sixteenth time than it was the first. The overall novelty may decline, but the appreciation of the splendor, and the sense of privilege in being here, does nothing but grow.

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The change in seasons always includes a turnover from summer to winter station crews. Before ship sailing, both the station and crew of the Laurence M. Gould gather together to share one last meal before roam apart. We call this cross town dinner, and usually it's a pizza feast with pies in all shapes and flavors as well as a contribution from the boat. Most summer crew people are ecstatic to head north, and they better start swimming or they'll sink like a stone, for the times they are a changin'.

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As a follow up to Chuck's and Maggie's descriptions of our diving operations (and as a tribute to Dio), I’m going to talk about today's dive. The weather has been fairly bad this month, more temperamental that I remember it being in April. But today we finally got to get away from station.

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Because I have both conducted research at Palmer Station and been a lecturer aboard an Antarctic cruise ship that regularly visits the station, I have a unique perspective on the logistics, challenges, and inherent value of these station visits by citizens from around the world.

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Sea stars, also known as starfish (this latter term is a bit of misnomer considering they are certainly not "fish"), are common sea floor animals that are found in all the world's oceans. Most have five rays or arms, but others can muster as many as twenty-five to thirty as saw my previous "Unexpected Surprises" post. Their arms are lined with legions of tiny tube-feet that operate using a unique hydraulic plumbing system that squeezes water through tubes with tiny valves that open and shut. The tube-feet serve primarily for locomotion, but also play a role in food capture and sensing prey.

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As Maggie and others have mentioned previously, one of the species I am working with this season is an omnivorous amphipod species, Gondogeneia antarctica (Gondo for short). Just as a quick reminder, these are the highly active and (if you ask me) charismatic microfauna that live on the big-branched brown algae (Desmarestia species) down here in large numbers.

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On Monday this week we built 18 mesocosm "universes" in the Palmer Station aquarium. That may sound a little out of this world, but let me explain. This week we started our mesocosm experiment, utilizing the relationship a large species of brown algae (the same big branched brown Desmarestia menziesii I mentioned in a previous post) and all of the amphipods on it. We created smaller simulated natural "community" assemblages from carefully collected Desmarestia. See the image right for my multple universes, complete with air lines and pH probes.

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The Laurence M. Gould sailed back into the Palmer Station world last week bearing gifts from the real world - several hundreds of pounds of fresh produce! That night the meal buffet line featured a huge stainless steel bowl its interior gleaming green with crisp lettuce, brightened by offerings of crunchy sweet carrots and remarkably red and luscious tomatoes. A very welcome sight to savor, much less consume, after exhausting the last shipment of salad makings weeks ago. Sweet and succulent watermelon followed for dessert, what a treat!

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As Chuck hinted in Dive Ops, part 1 this entry will focus on the tender side of our diving operation. Tender, in our vernacular, is used as a noun and refers to the act of tending to one's needs – in this case – a diver's needs. All of our dive operations have two divers and two tenders. Every project member routinely serves as a tender and often a volunteer or 'town tender' substitutes for one of us so that member can remain on station to instead tend to lab work. The other day I served as project tender and had the delightful assistance from town tender Harry Snyder, the winter-over carpenter. In addition to extraordinary wood working skills, Harry jams smiling at ease on the guitar and at the throttle of a zodiac as pictured.

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As I said in my last post, Sunday mornings are normally our "day off." We awoke to an unexpectedly calm and sunny day. Although like most of the scientists, our group is out in the field sampling many days, the station staff really only has Sundays (they get the whole day off) to enjoy the surroundings. So for them in particular, having a nice Sunday is a special treat.