Snowy Palmer Station.

April brings dramatic changes to Palmer. The days grow rapidly shorter – literally by losing about 6 minutes of daylight each day so that breakfast is now in the dark, dinner the sun, if seen is dropping into the horizon. Winter is clearly setting in as also evident in the early morning station opening image - recent persistent snowfalls whitewashing Palmer’s rocky terrain.

I have been doing a lot of diving lately.  Most of my underwater excursions (6 in the last 4 days!) have included videotaping the lovely communities living on the seafloor in the waters around the station. Much of what we see is permanently attached to large rocks so we cannot collect them to live temporarily in the station’s sorting table.  For today’s episode of All Creatures I will use scene grabs from the videos to introduce you to creatures that are fixed in place.  Read on to ‘be at home’ with these homebody critters.

Long strands of green algae sway over a sandy seafloor covered with feathery red algae, a pair of softball sponges and a bright orange band of flat red sponge encrusted on a rock ledge

graphic showing different colored lines depicting atmospheric pressure, humidity, air temperatures and wind patterns are interconnected and greatly influenced by processes in the Southern Ocean. Source Australia – State of the Environment 2016In my last blog I painted a ‘big picture’ view of the impacts of current and anticipated ocean acidification, both globally and in the icy seas surrounding Antarctica. Additional blogs by Jami and Addie described in detail our team’s experiments on the prospective biological impacts of ocean acidification being carried out at Palmer Station.

The time came for me to pack up my belongings and head back home. Leaving station, I had lots of mixed feelings. I’d made so many great friends who I knew I wouldn’t be able to see nearly as often, and I was sad to leave the beautiful ecosystem I’ve gotten to know over the past few months behind. However, I was also really missing my friends and family in Alabama and was excited to get back. As the ship got loaded up and ready to leave, I shared emotional goodbyes with all my friends, including Hannah, Jami, Chuck, and Maggie, who are staying on station to continue the experiment. I stalled for as long as possible before finally boarding the LMG and waving to Palmer Station as we pulled off the pier and into the Southern Ocean.

Chuck, Maggie, Jami, Hannah, Addie in green UAB emblazoned gear pose on rock with snow capped mountains in the distance

Side by side underwater images of wispy brown algae and broad flat bladed red algae; photo credit Bill Baker

A large amount of focus has been given to our main experiment this season. While this experiment is very important, I think its unfair that some of our other projects haven’t been given the attention they so rightly deserve. Well, not today! In this blog post, I will tell you all about my two palatability experiments I ran this season.

Bunk bedded room with blue comforter on lower bed, geometric patterned blue rug and a pair of maple brown chest of drawers In my last post, I mentioned we typically do water chemistry in the morning and save the afternoon for dives and other activities. What are these other activities I spoke of? Read on if you’re wondering what’s the buzz and what’s a-happenin’ at Palmer.

Chuck in green hat and orange coat, Hannah wearing a blue and black drysuit and red hat and Jami in orange coat and red hat smile as zodiacing away from Palmer Station, seen in background

Team UAB in A was all smiles departing station in our trusty black rubber ship under the command of Captain Chuck.  Thanks to high winds, it had been over a week since we had gotten out on and in the water.  This sunny, near windless day Hannah and I would have a very pleasant dive conducting a video transect of a local site. Below is a snatch of what we swam amongst.

Two brown seaweeds with smaller, red seaweeds on the side. Photo by B.J. Baker.I’ve been spending my last posts talking about diving and am still are not quite yet done with the topic. But I thought that this time I’d talk a bit about what we see on those dives. I might just as well start with what we see most, which are macroalgae (or "seaweeds", which means pretty much the same thing as "macroalgae").

One of my favorite places to be is in a boat, but when I’m not out in a Zodiac in my sea boots and bright orange Hellies and float coat, I can often be found indoors, clad in much less conspicuous garb – well, unless you count my banana print Crocs as conspicuous. Where do my flashy feet and I spend time when I’m not dive tending or helping with the experiment? See the station from my perspective in this whimsical tour of Palmer featuring my main haunts and treasured station features.

Montage of quarter- sized single shelled mollusc, limpets, both the upper surface and the undersurface with tan-colored foot, encircled by short tentacles and mouth.

A couple of weeks ago, we were able to start our main experiment for this field season that took nearly two months to set up. While this was a super exciting accomplishment, our team’s work is far from over. There are certain tasks (like titrations, spec work, and molt collecting, oh my!) that need to be completed daily. These tasks not only help ensure that our pH treatments are correctly set, but also allow us to collect some of our data throughout the experiment. Today, I am going to walk you through a typical workday for experiment maintenance.

Last week we had the opportunity to go on a ‘dive trip’ beyond our normal boating and diving range. We usually dive from open, Zodiac boats as you’ve read about in other posts, and we don’t go out of what is referred to as the “local” boating area. That is within a radius of two to three miles from the station. A main reason for staying relatively close is because if a diver somehow had a bad leak in their dry suit (unlikely, but not impossible) going much further would make for a very cold ride home.

An orange and black Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat with two divers standing at the stern preparing to go into the water. Photo by Hannah James.

In my previous All Creatures entry I introduced you to two local stars – seastars that is-  in the waters around Palmer Station.   As members of the phylum Echinodermata, sea stars have a large and diverse extended family, as the opening image reflects. 

A five-armed purple sea star rests along a similarly colored short spined urchin partially covered in algae; below the pair stretching across the image a brownish sea cucumber and below a longer, less densely spined pencil urchin

A white ceramic bowl brims with bright green broccoli, fresh edamame bean, strips of red and green sweet pepper, orange carrot shreds all topped with shredded purple cabbage drizzled with a peanut sauce; a fried egg role and fruit filled cookie alongside on plate Antarctica is renowned for its isolation from the rest of the world. There are no cities on the continent. No homes, no businesses, and, most importantly, no grocery stores. This can become a problem when you are trying to feed forty-five people on station, and the closest grocery store is days away.

water samplingIf you’ve read Addie’s latest post, then you know that the experiment is now officially underway! Read on to find out more about the water chemistry we do each day and why.