Saturday, February 27, 2016

First day sampling

Today we made it to our first sampling site!

 As you read in an earlier post, we are looking at soil biodiversity at many stops all along the entire Antarctic Peninsula. Today's stop is at Biscoe Point on Anvers Island, one of the most southern of our sampling sites this year (and about halfway down the entire gradient we're sampling).

 When we sample at a site, we collect soil from under five different types of plant cover: grass, moss, lichen, algae, and bare soil. We want to know how the plants influence what lives in the soil. A lot of people don't think these types of plants would grow somewhere as harsh as Antarctica, but they do! You can see in this photo all of the lush, green plants we found at Biscoe Point!

At the bottom of the photo, you can see a lot of moss (the greener stuff) with tufts of grass growing in it (the browner puffs). Uffe is up on a terrace towards the back sampling grass, and Connor is in the center of the photo sampling under algae.

We take a small sample of the plant material to extract the invertebrates that live in the plants themselves. Then we carefully remove more of the plant material to expose soil. We carefully clean our tools to kill foreign microbes, then scoop a little bit of soil into tubes for microbial analyses, and then more soil into a plastic bag for all of the other biological and chemical analyses that we'll run. We then carefully put the plant material back over the remaining soil to cover up our work and leave as little damage as possible. We did that a total of 70 times! We now have 70 plant samples and 70 soil samples in the lab on the LMG ready to be processed.

There is also a colony of Gentoo penguins that lives at Biscoe Point. We sample away from the rookery, but we walked by a few on-lookers on the way back to the boat. The scruffy looking penguins are the juveniles that are molting into their adult plumage.

Biscoe Point is near Palmer Station, which is where we're docked for the night. We were able to visit the station and meet some of the scientists working here. (And, I got a note from my friend Magen who was here just a few days ago on a National Geographic cruise!)

Tomorrow, we have a lot of lab work to do, while the LMG carries us back to the top of the Peninsula to sample our northern-most site! Here's hoping it's a smoother ride than coming down...