Upcoming Science This Season

Response to environmental changes and post-industrial recovery of foraminifera from South Georgia fjords, sub-Antarctic

 

1. What is the problem this science is trying to solve?

Our primary objective is to document modern benthic communities of foraminifera inhabiting poorly studied fjords of South Georgia (SG) and explore how their local biodiversity has responded to the twin impacts of industrialization and global warming in this sub-Antarctic area.

 

2. What do you expect to find from this science?

We expect to document biodiversity and distribution patterns of modern foraminifera in SG’s fjords, including the poorly-known monothalamids and describe new species. We will also reconstruct changes in foraminiferal faunas and paleoenvironments over the last 150 years in selected fjord locations. We will compare records from locations impacted by the whaling industry, i.e. in Stromness and Cumberland bays and those not impacted, i.e. in Antarctic Bay and possibly also in Fortuna Bay. Importantly, it will be also possible to document ecosystem recovery following the 1961 closure of the whaling station in Stromness Bay and its response to the ongoing warming.

 

3. Why is this piece of science/research important?

The data we plan to obtain will provide a valuable baseline for recognizing future trends and will help to assess resistance of SG ecosystem to local but severe industrial impact and its capability to reestablishing natural communities. They will also allow to predict future ecosystem changes in the Antarctic Peninsula sector of Antarctica linked to ongoing climate warming.

 

4. What are you actually going to be doing?

During our fieldwork, we will sample sea floor sediment with Kajak and Van Veen devices in up to 38 sites primarily in Cumberland West and East, Stromness, and Antarctic bays. Our secondary sites are most of all in Fortuna Bay. Precise date of sampling depends on weather conditions but must take place in late November to early December from SRV Saoirse. During this time, 3 persons will be also using labs of the KEP Research Station for microscope analyses on fresh material and initial sample preparation. Samples/cores (some frozen) will be transported to UK and Poland for further analyses

 


 

Media Activites

Details of your project website (if applicable):
None

Your twitter handle and any hashtags you plan to use:
None

Any media interviews or articles you have planned while you are doing your field work:
Not yet

 


 

Principal Investigator

Name: Wojciech Majewski
Email: wmaj(at)twarda.pan.pl

Polar Ocean Ecosystem Time Series – Western Core Box

 

1. What is the problem this science is trying to solve?

South Georgia has been identified as a key source of regional biodiversity, potentially supporting anomalously high levels of endemic and range-edge species. The biota is generally considered Antarctic in character with organisms typically slow growing, long lived and with deferred sexual maturity. The best possibility to monitor biological response to climate change is probably where many species are highly thermally sensitive and at range edges. The pelagic ecosystem of South Georgia is extremely productive and intense phytoplankton blooms support a rich food web that includes zooplankton, in particular large densities of Antarctic krill, and vertebrate predators (penguins, seals and whales). Our long-term time-series investigates the climatic and anthropogenic forces influencing the South Georgia marine ecosystem.

 

2. What do you expect to find from this science?

The main deliverable of the WCB is a consistent unique time series of mesoscale distribution and abundance of Antarctic krill and an understanding of the physical environment they are within at South Georgia, South Atlantic (1996 – current). These data are required to understand the long term variability in krill biomass at South Georgia and the influences from climate variability, fishing pressure and predation.

 

3. Why is this piece of science/research important?

Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba) play a central role in the Southern Ocean food web as effective grazers on phytoplankton as well as a key prey item of a wide range of higher trophic predators. Inter-annual fluctuations in krill abundance at South Georgia were first noted during the whaling period in the early part of the twentieth century. There appear to be 2 to 3 years in each decade where the abundance of krill at South Georgia is low, the predator foraging and breeding performance is reduced, and the krill fishery reports reduced catch levels and rates. We undertake this long-term science to investigate the climate and anthropogenic forces that influence these cycles with a view to providing information pertinent to the management of the Antarctic ecosystem and greater understanding of ecosystem variability.

 

4. What are you actually going to be doing?

The cruise consists of the following two key projects, and aims to support other projects (PhD, CASS Collaborative Antarctic Science Scheme and other international collaborators) where they fit to the general sampling programme.
POETS – WCB survey

1. Acoustic survey during daylight hours using multi-frequency (38, 70, 120 & 200 kHz) Simrad EK60 echosounder. Two transects to be run each day during a four day period.
2. Deployment of the CTD at minimum of two stations per night during survey.
3. Continuous operation of underway data logging system (bathymetry, location, sea surface temperature, sea currents, etc.).
4. Net sampling (RMT8 and other zooplankton/micronekton nets) at night-time stations plus target fishing during both night and day to ground-truth acoustic data.
5. Acoustic calibration using standard sphere techniques will be undertaken in one of the deep-water harbours on the North coast of South Georgia (Stromness Harbour is the preferred location).
6. Recover WCB mooring. Download data, refurbish and replace batteries. Redeploy mooring.
POETS – SCOOBIES (SCotia sea Open-Ocean BIological laboratoriES)
Mooring recovery, refurbishment and redeployment

1. Recover two deep-water moorings (SW and NW of South Georgia). Download data, refurbish and replace batteries. Redeploy moorings during cruise.
2. Net sampling (RMT8, MOCNESS and other zooplankton nets) over 24 hour periods at mooring stations

 


 

Media Activites

Details of your project website (if applicable):
https://www.bas.ac.uk/project/poets-wcb/ and https://www.bas.ac.uk/project/scoobies/

Your twitter handle and any hashtags you plan to use:
@BAS_science

Any media interviews or articles you have planned while you are doing your field work:
None

 


 

Principal Investigator

Name: Sophie Fielding

Email: sof(at)bas.ac.uk

Tracking of black-browed and grey-headed albatrosses at Bird Island

 

1. What is the problem this science is trying to solve?

Albatrosses are large seabirds that rely on wind to reach distant feeding areas, and are strongly affected by wind patterns. This research will investigate how wind patterns influence the amount of energy that albatrosses have to expend in order to acquire food, how this in turn impacts albatross reproduction, and how changes in wind patterns influence the energetic cost of reaching foraging grounds. This work will take advantage of recent developments in tagging technology to generate estimates of energetic expenditure during each foraging trip.

 

2. What do you expect to find from this science?

We expect to increase our understanding of how environmental variability influences the movement, foraging behaviour, and energetic requirements of albatrosses. Specifically, the data we will collect on albatrosses and their environment will allow us to understand how climate-driven variability in wind patterns impacts albatrosses and their ability to obtain sufficient food in order to successfully raise their offspring.

 

3. Why is this piece of science/research important?

Climate change is impacting where marine predators must go to find food, and also how much energy these animals use in order to reach their feeding areas. Assessing how foraging in marine animals is influenced by climate patterns is critical to understanding the impacts of future climate change on marine ecosystems. Wind patterns are predicted to be altered under climate change scenarios, and albatrosses are especially reliant on having favourable winds. Consequently, climate-driven changes in wind will likely have strong impacts on the movement and foraging behaviour, and hence on their reproduction and survival.

 

4.What are you actually going to be doing?

During fieldwork at South Georgia, we will be deploying different electronic tags that allow us to track the movements of albatrosses as well as their flight behaviour and heart rate in order to estimate their energetic expenditure. Data from these tags will be combined with satellite data on ocean winds and monitoring of chick growth and breeding success in order to understand links between wind patterns, albatross feeding behaviour and energetics.

 


 

Media Activites

Details of your project website (if applicable):

https://you.stonybrook.edu/thornelab/research/albatrosses/

 

Your twitter handle and any hashtags you plan to use:

@Thorne_LH

 


 

Principal Investigator

Name: Lesley Thorne and Richard Phillips

EmailLesley.thorne (at) stonybrook.edu, raphil (at) bas.ac.uk

Tracking of wandering albatrosses at Bird Island

 

1. What is the problem this science is trying to solve?

Wandering albatrosses at South Georgia have declined catastrophically since the 1960s due to incidental mortality (bycatch) in fisheries. Since 2014, bycatch of seabirds has been reduced to negligible levels in fisheries operating around South Georgia because of regulations introduced under the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). However, elsewhere in the southern hemisphere, continuing poor practices and weak or no enforcement of regulations means that bycatch is still a major threat for wandering albatrosses – as well as for many other seabird populations.

 

2. What do you expect to find from this science?

The project will quantify interactions of tracked wandering albatrosses with legal and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing vessels and will identify areas and periods of highest susceptibility to bycatch for different life-history classes (age, sex, breeding status). Limited vessel-based monitoring indicate that two areas of particularly high risk for wandering albatrosses are the Patagonian Shelf and subtropical convergence. We expect to confirm these areas as important bycatch hotspots, which is crucial information for stakeholders and policy makers to improve regulations, target bycatch observer programmes and monitor compliance with recommended bycatch mitigation. We also expect that a considerable number of interactions will come from IUU fishing activities.

 

3. Why is this piece of science/research important?

While several studies have investigated overlap of seabirds with fishing effort, this is mainly based on the assumption that spatial overlap (i.e. potential for encounters) provides a proxy of potential bycatch risk. This project will greatly improve on previous coarse-scale analyses, using radar detection of fishing vessels to clearly identify areas and periods of highest susceptibility to bycatch. This project also has the potential to be a “game-changer” given the capacity for identifying IUU vessels from bird-borne radar, and the scope to extend the approach to other species in future.

 

4.What are you actually going to be doing?

We will deploy recently-developed devices that record radar detection of vessels, 3-D acceleration and GPS location, together with an immersion logger providing timings of all flights and landings on wandering albatrosses during different life-history stages. We will combine this information with Automatic Identification System (AIS) and Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data to determine the distance at which birds respond to vessels and the proportion of time spent behind vessels (and therefore at risk). We will also quantify the number of interactions with IUU vessels in order to understand the scale of their impact, which is still largely unknown. Radar signals detected by bird-borne loggers that do not correspond with a nearby VMS or AIS signature will often originate from an IUU vessel.

 


 

Media Activites

Details of your project website (if applicable):

https://www.bas.ac.uk/project/bycatch-risk-of-wandering-albatrosses-using-radar-detection/

BirdLife will launch a new marine website in autumn 2019, which will have a description of the project. So far, BirdLife has advertised the project in a news article: http://www.birdlife.org/worldwide/news/seabird-sentinels-will-help-mitigate-bycatch

 

Your twitter handle and any hashtags you plan to use:

@darwin_defra; @AlbyTaskForce; @BirdLifeMarine

 

Any media interviews or articles you have planned while you are doing your field work
As soon as we deploy the loggers on juvenile wandering albatrosses we plan to update our BAS project website to include a map of birds being tracked in near real time using the Argos system (e.g. https://www.bas.ac.uk/project/grey-headed-albatross-juvenile-tracking/). We also plan to include maps and images on new BirdLife marine project page.

 


 

Principal Investigator

Name:Richard Phillips

Emailraphil (at) bas.ac.uk

Bird Island Higher Predator LTMS

 

1. What is the problem this science is trying to solve?

British Antarctic Survey carries out a Long Term Science (LTS) project that measures changes in Antarctic ecosystems and seeks to understand the underlying drivers and processes. Marine predators are sensitive to changes in the ecosystem, some of which are natural (e.g. climate variability), whereas others are caused by humans (e.g. fishing). Monitoring breeding populations of seabirds and seals is an important part of the LTS programme, providing scientists and conservationists with indicators of change in the Scotia Sea and elsewhere in the south-west Atlantic. These indicators include estimates of population size and trends, breeding frequency, reproductive success, and the composition of predator diets.

Scientists have carried out targeted research projects on most of Bird Island’s breeding species over recent decades. Survival and breeding histories are recorded for wandering, black-browed and grey-headed albatrosses, northern and southern giant petrels, macaroni penguins, and Antarctic fur and leopard seals. BAS also monitors population size and breeding success of light-mantled albatrosses and gentoo penguins, and a range of other parameters that reflect annual changes in food availability in the wider environment.

 

3. Why is this piece of science/research important?

The Antarctic is unique in that scientists and policy makers from many nations have adopted an ecosystem approach for managing fisheries. One of the objectives of this project is to help inform the regional conservation and management authority for Southern Ocean fisheries, which is the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR). BAS data on seabirds contribute to the understanding of threats to these charismatic animals (penguins, albatrosses). In particular, the tracking and population data are used by the Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP) and NGOs, including the BirdLife International global seabird programme to understand the reasons why many of these species are declining. This information is used to develop strategies to minimise or eliminate the major threats, including campaigning for the wider use of mitigation to reduce the high rates of seabird incidental mortality in many Southern Ocean fisheries.

 

4.What are you actually going to be doing?

Recording survival and breeding histories for wandering, black-browed and grey-headed albatrosses, northern and southern giant petrels, macaroni penguins, and Antarctic fur and leopard seals; monitoring population size and breeding success of light-mantled albatrosses and gentoo penguins, all as part of a long term science programme.

 


 

Media Activites

Details of your project website (if applicable):

https://www.bas.ac.uk/project/higher-predators-long-term-science/

 


 

Principal Investigator

Name: Richard Phillips

Emailraphil (at) bas.ac.uk

Where are they now? Right whales in the South Georgia marine ecosystem

 

1. What is the problem this science is trying to solve?

South Georgia is a very important place for whales, with >170,000 whales killed there since 1904, but since whaling ended there has been little work done to understand why South Georgia is so important for whales, in terms of key spots within the habitat, what they feed on at South Georgia, and which wintering grounds they are connected to. These are the questions we wish to address and we particularly focus on the southern right whale since in recent decades it has been the most commonly reported whale in South Georgia waters and there are also conservation concerns about this population, as there have been mass calf strandings reported on the most closely associated calving ground (Peninsula Valdes, Argentina), and the cause of these strandings is unknown. One hypothesis is that availability of high latitude food to pregnant mothers may impact the health of subsequent calves. A key aim of our research is therefore also to assess the body condition of southern right whales in South Georgia, to better understand their health and summer feeding habits. We are also trying to increase the visibility of whales at South Georgia and engage citizen scientists, by encouraging the collection of photo-ID, and submission of images to Happywhale. Happywhale provide a repository for citizen science contributed photos and can find matches using automated matching algorithms.

 

2. What do you expect to find from this science?

We expect to deliver (i) an estimate of the genetic identity of southern right whales feeding in South Georgia (i.e. how closely connected they are with the different southern right whale calving grounds in the South Atlantic, in Brazil, Argentina and South Africa); (ii) an assessment of the body condition of southern right whales using South Georgia waters; (iii) a study of the habitat use patterns of krill feeding whales (southern right whales and humpback whales) in South Georgia waters, particularly considering their habitat use patterns in relation to the Marine Protected Areas; (iv) an assessment of southern right whale feeding habits at South Georgia, to conclude on whether they are exclusively krill feeding or consuming a mixture of zooplankton prey.

 

3.  Why is this piece of science/research important?

Following modern whaling, the habitat use and health of southern right whales using South Georgia waters is virtually unknown. These data will help us to better understand how they use South Georgia waters, the timeframe of their presence, what they are feeding on, and what kind of body condition they are in.

 

4. What are you actually going to be doing??

We are deploying acoustic listening devices which record the direction of whale vocalisations so that we can find whales. When we encounter whales we will collect photo-identifications, and collect small skin samples to genetically identify them and do skin chemistry analysis to find out what they are eating. We will also deploy satellite tags which will stay attached to the whale for a few months and tell us how they use the South Georgia habitat. We will also collect overhead images of the whales via UAV to measure their body condition, and collect whale blow samples to measure whale health. We will deploy an echosounder in order to measure the local prey field with acoustics and better understand the type of prey they are targeting.

 


 

Media Activites

Details of your project website (if applicable):

www.facebook.com/sgwhale, http://best-whaleswim.eu

Your twitter handle and any hashtags you plan to use

@polarbiome
#SGwhale

Any media interviews or articles you have planned while you are doing your field work

Not at present but I can inform GSGSSI if any arise. We will give an interview on Falklands Radio on the way back from South Georgia.

 


 

Principal Investigator

Name: Jennifer Jackson

Emailjeck (at) bas.ac.uk

Gentoo penguin and fur seal monitoring at Maiviken

 

1. What is the problem this science is trying to solve?

The Antarctic krill fishery at South Georgia is managed with an ecosystem based approach. This means that we not only monitor krill populations, we also look for any impacts fishing may have on other animals that rely on the krill. During the breeding season, many krill eating predators, such as gentoo penguins and Antarctic fur seals, are constrained in their foraging range and rely on the availability of krill in key areas. It is important to monitor the breeding success of such species to better understand the links between krill availability and breeding success and help ensure that the winter fishery for krill is not effecting their populations.

 

2. What do you expect to find from this science?

Monitoring the breeding success of fur seals & gentoo penguins helps us understand the impacts of variability in the availability of krill. Such variability could be natural or linked to the effects of climate change and / or fishing. In years of poor krill availability (natural variability in krill populations), we expect to see low breeding success of our monitored colonies. The work compliments work undertaken at Bird Island and the annual krill acoustic survey to the NW of South Georgia.

 

3.  Why is this piece of science/research important?

This research allows us to look at how populations of ecologically important species respond to changes in the availability of one of their key prey species. This monitoring is also done in a comparable way to the monitoring at the Bird Island research station, which allows us to investigate both temporal and spatial variability in the breeding success of penguins and seals.

 

4. What are you actually going to be doing??

This long-term project is monitoring the abundance and breeding success of two krill-eating species (gentoo penguins & Antarctic fur seals) at Maiviken (Cumberland Bay). We undertake regular counts of each colony during the breeding season, counting the number of breeding female seals and nests/eggs with pairs of penguins. The adults and young are monitored throughout the season to assess how successful the rearing of young is in a particular year. Seal pups and penguin chicks are weighed at key points during the year to check how their growth compares to previous seasons. Seal scats (poo) are collected and analysed to see what the seals are eating.

 


 

Principal Investigators

Name: Martin Collins & Phil Hollyman

Email: macol (at) bas.ac.uk & phyman (at) bas.ac.uk

Seasonal and inter-annual variability in coastal plankton communities in South Georgia waters

 

1. What is the problem this science is trying to solve?

The waters around South Georgia are amongst the most productive in the Southern Ocean, but are subject to significant climate change. Changes in the plankton community of South Georgia will have knock-on effects on much of South Georgia’s charismatic wildlife. Our long term plankton monitoring programme endeavours to understand the composition and variability of plankton communities at key locations on the north coast of South Georgia. Regular sampling allows us to investigate intra- and inter- annual variability in the abundance and size of key planktonic species, with a particular focus on fish larvae and Antarctic krill.

 

2. What do you expect to find from this science?

There are two main aims of the plankton sampling, firstly, we look at the abundance of fish larvae. This allows us to estimate the timing (and intensity/success) of the reproductive season for many of the fish species found around South Georgia. Secondly, we are able to look at the other zooplankton such as copepods and especially Antarctic krill. Looking at the number and size of krill help inform our knowledge of krill population dynamics around South Georgia. We can also measure how these species grow through the year. As this sampling has been running for almost 20 years we can look at changes on an annual and decadal scale.

 

3.  Why is this piece of science/research important?

Knowing the timing of reproduction for fish species is vital to understand the dynamics of fish populations. It is especially important for mackerel icefish which are commercially fished and commonly occur in our samples. Likewise, knowing seasonal differences in the size of krill is also critical, as not only is krill a key prey for many other species, it is also commercially fished. The real strength of this dataset is its longevity, as we can look for changes in the timings of key life history events for a whole range of crucial species.

 

4. What are you actually going to be doing??

Plankton trawls are taken at two set locations on the North coast of South Georgia, Cumberland Bay and Rosita Harbour roughly every 6 weeks during the winter and every month in the summer. The trawls are taken at twilight at a depth of 20 – 25 m. Additional trawls will be undertaken at other locations on an ad-hoc basis.

 


 

Media Activites

Details of your project website (if applicable):

www.antarctica.ac.uk

 


 

Principal Investigators

Name: Martin Collins & Phil Hollyman

Email: macol (at) bas.ac.uk & phyman (at) bas.ac.uk

Winter foraging of Antarctic fur seals

 

1. What is the problem this science is trying to solve?

We want to understand how Antarctic fur seals find food during the winter. At this time their key food, Antarctic Krill, are thought to move to deeper depths. As seals have to hold their breath to dive this would make their primary food more difficult to find and eat.

 

2. What do you expect to find from this science?

We hope to understand not only how the seals overcome the problems of feeding during the winter but also get a picture of the movements of the krill themselves.

 

3.  Why is this piece of science/research important?

Winter is potentially a critical time for Antarctic fur seals as the amount of food is reduced and yet it is a time when most females are pregnant and need energy for the developing foetus. In recent year the proportion of pregnant seals returning to South Georgia beaches at the start of summer has dropped. Winter is also the time when the krill fishery operates around South Georgia and so when seals are fishing are most likely to be in direct competition.

 

4. What are you actually going to be doing??

At the end of summer we will attach small loggers to the fur of the seals. These loggers that measure their behaviour recording diving depths, water temperature and light levels, which we use to determine the seals’ locations. We will recover the loggers when the seals return to the breeding beaches at the beginning of the following summer.

 


 

Media Activites

Details of your project website (if applicable):

https://www.bas.ac.uk/team/science-teams/ecosystems/

Your twitter handle and any hashtags you plan to use:

@Iain_Staniland

Any media interviews or articles you have planned while you are doing your field work:

None at present

 


 

Principal Investigators

Name: Iain Staniland

Email:  ijst (at) bas.ac.uk