Mr T's Year 4 Class - Climate Futures

Mr T's Year 4 Class - Climate Futures

Mr T's Year 4 Class

To the fabulous class of 4T and Mr T. Thanks so much for your great questions and news of what you are doing in class at the moment. I have the first responses for your questions. Looking forward to hearing from you again soon.

Q&A No. 3

1. How many samples can the CTD take at once? Josh

Hello Josh,
The CTD has 22 bottles on the rosette each containing 12 litres of water. Normally there are 24 bottles but 2 bottles were remove to make room for additional water sensors to be attached to the rosette frame. We programme the bottles to close at different depths of interest, so sometimes we will close 4 bottles at one depth and 2 bottles at all the rest of the depths of interest Othertimes we close all the bottles at the same depth, and then other times we close the bottles at 22 different depths in the water column. It all depends on how many people want water at different depths.

2. Have you found any rare, endangered or new species of phytoplankton yet? Anika

Hello Anika,
I am seeing a lot of different diatoms, but I have not seen any new species. The Southern Ocean diatoms have been well studied since the 19th Century, so I am reasonably sure finding a new one would be very lucky indeed. I don’t think any of them you can consider endangered as species here in the huge Southern Ocean. There are just soooooo many out here in the ocean. Although I haven’t seen any new species I have seen a few of the seasonal forms of some species of diatoms that I don’t think anyone has seen before and so for me this is very exciting.  I will write a scientific paper describing and illustrating what I have found. I will show this to your class when I return.

3. Why did the cups have to be in the onion bag? Why not a plastic bag? Eileen

Hi Eileen,
Actually the onion bag was made of plastic but it had fine holes in it. The holes allow the water in and the gases out. If we had a plastic bag it probably would have exploded on the way back up to the surface and then we would have lost all the cups, which wouldn’t have been a good thing.

4. What has been the biggest phytoplankton that you have seen? Matt D

Hello Matt D,
The biggest phytoplankton I have seen so far - hmm lets see. I think that the longest single-celled diatom is a thin noodle-like diatom called Thalassiothrix antarctica. I think I have seen one that was around 1.5 mm long.  I have seen a chain of diatoms much longer though. One chain (a chain is lots of individual cells linked together) of Fragilariopsis kerguelensis that was nearly 3mm long! I didn’t bother trying to count how many individual cells made up this chain. Diana Davies has also seen some very long chains caught in the gel traps. She has a coiling Eucampia antarctica chain with 9 coils over 1 mm long, so if it was laid flat it would be more than 2mm long I am sure. As for the biggest and roundest diatoms they would have to be from the Coscinodiscus genus. I have many that are around 250-300 microns (approximately  ¼ of a 1mm) in diameter. They are big for a diatom.

5. How many different phytoplankton communities are there? Neena

Hello Neena,
Where I am now I can tell you that I have seen 5 different communities, that is different groups of diatoms living together, in the region I have been studying. I could see a difference when we moved across the east-west transect away from Kerguelen Island out in to the ocean where there were 4 communities that I saw, while along the north-south transect there were 3 different communities.
Some species of diatoms I see in all the samples but others are only found in some regions where the water conditions are different.

6. How do send emails on the boat? Do you have internet? Charlie

Hi Charlie,
I only have e-mail on the boat. There is no internet at all. We only get e-mail onto the boat a few times a day sometimes once and sometimes 4-5 times. It depends on the satellites going over our heads and out here in the Southern ocean that is not as frequent as you might imagine. There is a Radio Officer on the ship and he checks for the e-mail coming in and makes sure our messages get sent out. He is responsible for all communications including faxes and the satellite telephone. A satellite telephone call however costs a lot of money. For many scientists who are probably connected to the internet and e-mail through the whole day when they are at work, the first few weeks of having very limited outside contact is very hard for them to cope with.  I find it great not having to deal with e-mails as it lets me concentrate on my work. Can you imagine not having the internet for 2 months and only being able to send an e-mail message maybe twice a day only? You do get use to it and mostly it is Ok, but sometime is can be difficult if you need information that you can not get a hold of.

7. What does the gel trap do? Marcus

Hi Marcus,
I think that there is a blurb about this now on the blog, but essentially the gel trap is put in the water at around 100, 200 and 300 m depth to capture the particles (mostly zoopankton poop and bits of debris from the phytoplankton being eaten or naturally dying) that are sinking to the bottom of the ocean. It is very difficult to studying how the organisms fall out of the surface waters where they are busy growing and the zooplankton eating them.  The gel trap is one way to capture the particles without damaging them as they sink into the gel goop and stay in their shape. Diana then categorized the particles and looks at which ones are really sinking to the deeper waters. The more living material (called organic material) caught in these particles and sinking to the bottom of the ocean the better for taking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and either trapping it in very deep ocean water (for more than 100 years) or trapping if for millions of years in the sediments on the seafloor.

8. Have the water samples been going well and giving you good results? Momoko

Hello Momoko,

At the moment Veronica is doing a fabulous job getting up at all sorts of strange hours of the day and night to get the water samples from the CTD water rosette casts. We are very happy with all the samples we are collecting but we will not know much about the biology in them until I get back to the laboratory to study. Other scientists on board are however, looking at the chemistry of this water collected from the CTD’s and have been plotting up their results to show us how the surface waters are low in certain chemicals such as iron or silicate (because the phytoplankton are using them to grow) but at much deeper levels more than 150m they are at higher concentrations (because the diatoms can not grow without the sunlight). Others show us that the oxygen in the surface waters is high compare with the deeper waters again because the diatoms are producing a lot of oxygen when they photosynthesize (when they turn carbon dioxide and water into sugars and oxygen).

9. In the photos we have seen scientists wearing gloves when they look at samples. Why do they do this? Mr T

Many scientists wear gloves to stop contamination from their hands getting into the water samples. They try to keep everything very clean. Our hands contain lots of oils and bacteria, and are touching metal on the ship and so we don’t want these chemicals traces or organisms to enter into our samples. By wearing gloves we can stop some of this contamination happening. Some scientists even rinse their brand new sample bottles with very pure water or even the seawater from the CTD water that they are about to sample. Again this is to help reuce containmation that would otherwise make the sample we are taking useless. In another way, wearing gloves also protects us from the cold, salty water, which isn’t great for our hands.

10. Are you missing Maxime? 4T

Ooo yes I am really missing Maxime and my family now. It is hard to be on a ship working all the time and to be so out of your normal routine. It also feels really strange because there are no kids at all on board and so the crazy and fun things that kids do you really begin to miss. I really miss reading with Maxime at night and tickling him. I also miss taking our walk around the block to check out things we see along the way (like a boobook owl skeleton). I also miss eating Gelato ice cream with him and his brother- what flavour will you choose when I get back Maxime? But mostly I miss his happiness, his laugh and his crazy bouncing around. What will be amazing when I return will be how much more he has grown.

Q&A No. 2

1. How many samples have you taken so far? How many samples do you take throughout a day? How many do you expect to take over the course of your trip? Josh and Ben M.

Dear Josh and Ben M,
Gee that a good question. I will have to ask Veronica what number we are up to wi the CTD water sample rosette. I know that I have taken 19 Phytoplankton net samples so far and 5 short sediment cores.  We still have another 1-2 weeks of sampling so this number will continue to increase. Veronica tells me that we have taken around 600 water samples so far and that the boxes are all full already. We are going to get some additional bottles and boxes from my French colleagues so that we can finish all the sampling still to come.  I think we will be close to 700 water samples when we have finished and probably another 6-10 Phytoplankton net samples and another 2 core samples.

2. What are the black and white dolphins called? Sarah

Hi Sarah,
I hear that you and your class have looked up the different types of dolphins that occur in this region.  I did find a book about dolphins on board and it seem you have done a good job in your research as the Dolphins that were seen with black and white patches was the Commerson’s dolphin. Well done!

3. What is a swell? We heard they got to 7m....that sounds huge! Momoko

Hi Momoko,
The swell describes the waves that have been created by the wind somewhere else and that travel across the ocean (as if you blew air with a straw at one end of your bath and you can then see the wave get to the other side). The height of these travelling waves is then what report on, meaning the wind somewhere else made these waves that we sail up and over. So yes, a 7m swell is how far the ship goes up and down between one of these travelling waves in the ocean to the next, and 7m seems a lot but they can get much bigger. We had a small storm two days ago and it got to 6m. So far we have been lucky to only have a swell of around 1m.

4. What temperatures does Kergualen Island get to in spring? Eileen

Hi Eileen,
I’m not sure what the temperature gets to in Spring. I have asked one of the officers on the bridge but they don’t have information about the general seasonal weather conditions on the island. Kerguelen Island does have a weather station though. I visited it once in 2005 and actually got to send the weather balloon up into the air. I think you can probably find the Kergelen Island weather station information by looking it up on the internet (France Meteo), although it might be in French.

5. What has been your favourite part about the trip so far? Molly

Hello Molly,
My favourite part of the trip so far has been looking at the diatoms when they come up from the ocean - it is really so exciting to see what is in the net. It is a surprise each time and so interesting sometimes to see some of the zooplankton moving. I will show you short movies of this when I return to Sydney. The very best part was when I saw a diatom form that I think no-one has ever seen before! That is something very special.

6. Do you enjoy doing your research? Why? Kevin

Hello Kevin,
Yes, I really, really enjoy doing my research. There are many reasons why. The most important one is because I am curious about diatoms in general and I find them very beautiful to look at. I really can look at them for hours under the microscope. I also love the fact that this research helps us understand more about our oceans and how the cycle of life occurs on our blue planet. My work is important to many other researchers who look at different aspects of the ocean be that physical, chemical, geological and even palaeontological. This is a great feeling to be part of a big international team trying to understand how our planet works. I know that what I am doing is a small part of a big puzzle, but knowing that I am contributing to our knowledge of the oceans and who lives in them and why, is very satisfying.  One day you will feel the same thing- you will end up doing something that you enjoy and feel passionate about learning more about- it is the best way to find a job that you will enjoy. Finally, I also enjoy being out on adventures in the sea seeing things that so few people ever get the chance to experience. I feel very lucky I have a great research and teaching job.

7. How many types of phytoplankton and zooplankton have you found so far? Is this normal? Marcus

Hi Marcus,
Hmm this is an interesting question I have to look at my notes. I have found in the 19 phytoplankton nets around 60 species of diatoms although there are probably more than this as I lump a few of them together. I will do a proper analysis of all the species in the samples when I get back home. In the laboratory I can clean up the diatom cells to just their skeletons and then identify them under much higher magnification. This way I can properly identify them. I would say that the ones I have seen so far are the normal range of species that I expected to see. As for the zooplankton I just lump these into common groups as I am not a specialist in all the different species. I have 14 different zooplankton groups and in most samples I would have 50-75% of them present but in very low numbers compared to the diatoms. We have even been finding two types of  hot pink coloured zooplankton (called dinoflagellates and foraminifera). This has been surprising for us. There are two other scientists on board who will look at some of these zooplankton groups and determine the species and how many there are.

8. How many times have you deployed the CTD device? Bryce

Hello Bryce,
I have just had a look at the ships log book and notice that we are now up to CTD number 78. I think we might just be under 100 deployments by the end of the voyage. Veronica doesn’t take water samples for me from all of these CTD’s, there are many different deployments for different studies. We only take water samples from those that are collections for the biologists. The chemists do many more CTD deployments than us to get the water they need for their experiments or observations.

9. What are the scientists that you drop of onto the island do while they are there? Brian

Hi Brian,
The scientists that we dropped at Kerguelen a few weeks ago now were there to study the sea birds on Kerguelen, and especially the Royal Penguin. They will be there for a year.

10. Once you get samples on board, how long does it take to research them and find out what you want? What magnification do you need to see your samples? Ben M and Maxime

Hello Ben M and Maxime,
This is a good question. Most of the samples I am taking now are preserved with a chemical called Lugols solution and put into special sample boxes to be sent back to my laboratory at Macquarie University after the mission. It will take me around a year to get most of my results worked up and probably two to completely finish the analysis and papers that I will need to write up about what I find. I will be looking for University students to come and work in my lab to study some of the material I have collected on this mission that they can work up as a research project. If I have a PhD student work on some of this material it will take them 3 years to complete their study.  So as you can see research can take quite some time to work up. As for the magnification at the moment I am looking at the Phytoplankton net samples at 10 times and 40 times their normal size. When I get back to Macquarie University I will look at the diatoms at 100 to 1000 times their normal size. Imagine if we magnified you two boys 100 times larger!! How big would your foot be?

Q&A No.1

1. How fast is 12 knots in kilometres? Lewis and Brian

Hi Lewis and Brain,
Samuel (one of the mates onboard at the bridge this afternoon) tells me that the speed of the ship in knots is a unit of measurement known as a Nautical mile per hour. So one knot is equal to 1.85km per hour so when travelling 12 knots we would cover the distance of around 22 km in one hour.

2. Have you seen any more sea-life since your sighting of the albatross? Lexi

Hi Lexi,
I have seen some penguins in the water when we stopped at Crozet Island and this morning I saw a Dolphin swimming alongside the ship as we came in to Kerguelen Island. Other people have seen a whale but that was when we left Reunion Island. Otherwise until I am able to get on to Kerguelen Island I will probably not see many more large animals in the ocean I will however be looking at a lot of animals under the microscope- the phytoplankton and the zooplankton. If we are lucky we may also see some other animals such as jellyfish or small fish if they get caught in the zooplankton net.

3. How big is the zooplankton net? Hayden

Hi Hayden,
The zooplankton net is quite large. The scientist who deploys the zooplankton net is Dr François Carlotti from Marseille, France. He tells me that the net is 3 metres long and has a mouth opening of around 1 m. His net has really small holes of 300 microns (we write it as µm), which is really small, but only organisms bigger than this size are caught in his nets. He sends his net down 200m in the water column.

4. Are there more stars in the sky where you are now? Neena

Hi Neena,
At the moment we haven’t had clear skies to see the stars at night. We have been in cloud cover for a week now. As such the stars in the sky are the same as the ones that you see in Sydney but because there are no city lights around us just darkness we would on a clear night see so many more stars in the sky than possible in Sydney. If you were to go into the countryside far from cities and towns you would see the same amount of stars that I could see from on the ship. To see the Southern Cross at sea is one of my favourite things to observe at night, but it is more brilliant with so many other stars in the sky.

5. What is a CTD camera? Maxime

Hi Maxime,
First of all the CTD is an instrument that records the conductivity (C), the Temperature (T) and the depth (D) of the ocean water when send down the water rosette. You might ask me then what is conductivity for? Conductivity of the water is a way that we measure the saltiness (salinity) of the ocean. There is a video on my website showing the CTD water rosette on the Marion Dufresne (I apologise that this is in French but you can see what it is like). The water rosette as you might be able to see in a big circular frame that holds up to twenty-four 12 litre capacity water sampling bottles (the grey bottles). So when we send this water sampling rosette down into the water column these bottles are all open at both the top and the bottom, essentially making them a tube in which the water can pass through. We send the rosette down to where we want water samples from, lets say 1000m down. Once at the bottom we start bringing the rosette up but now we start closing some of the bottles to trap the water in them. So with our imaginary CTD at 1000m we would close the first 2 bottles at 1000m so we have a sample of this deep water, we would then continue winching back in the CTD rosette stopping at various depths on the way up to collect more samples (for example 800m, 600m 500m, 250m, 200m, 150m, 100m, 80m, 60m, 40m, 20m, 10m and then the surface). So by the time the CTD rosette reaches the surface all the bottles have been closed and have very special water samples from all depths of the ocean. Many scientists on board study the chemical signatures of this water, some of us also look at the phytoplankton, bacteria and zooplankton in these samples particularly those at the surface of the ocean. So to get bacj to your question , also attached to this frame is the CTD instrument. The instrun=ment thus gives us a picture of the saltiness, temperature and depth that the CTD water rosette has been through. We plot this information up and then eventually will compare that with the chemical and biological information we are going to study from the water samples.

6. Where are the Crozet Islands? Momoko

Hi Momoko,
The Crozet Archielago of Islands can be found in the Southwest Indian sector of the Southern Ocean. There are in fact there islands that make up the Crozet Archipelago- these are : Possession Island (Ile de la Possession), East Island (Ile d’Est) et the Island of Pigs (Ile des Cochons). The main one is Possession island at 46°23’S and 51°45’E. The names were given to the islands by the Commandant Marion Dufresne when his ship discovered them. Crozet was the second Capitan on the ship, the island of pigs was so called as they put pigs and sheep on the island, the island of Possesion named because the French placed their flag on it to claim it and the east island named because it was east of Possession island.

7. How big is the ship? Harry

Hello Harry,
The ship is quite large although not as big as some the big Cruise ships that you see come in to Sydney Harbour during summer. The ship is 120.50m long and 20.61 m wide. You could try to measure it out on your school oval. There are 9 levels on the ship, my room and also my laboratory is on deck D (so right in the middle). There is a sheet all about the boat on my web-site on another page and also a picture of the ship that you can colour in if you would like to.

8. Does anyone go fishing on the boat? What type of fish do they catch? Henry

Hi Henry, this is an interesting question. I am going to have to ask the Captain this question. During our mission I don’t think anyone will be fishing it is too cold to be outside waiting for a fish to bite the line (although I imagine it might be a bit quicker than down at Bobbin Heads since there are not many people out here fishing). Captain Bernard tells me that during scientific missions like the one we are on now no-one is allowed to fish. But when they do resupply missions to the islands where they stay for a few days then some of the crew use fishing lines from the boat. He is not sure what fish they catch, but whatever is caught is always eaten on board.

9. Was the birthday cake nice? Brianah

Hi Brianah,
The birthday cake was pretty good, although not like your normal kids birthday cake this one was full of fruit (strawberry, blueberries and raspberries) on top. There are a few more birthdays while we are at sea. It will be interesting to see what they get for a cake when it comes around. I don’t mind eating birthday cake.

10. Is the food on board nice? What has been your favourite meal so far? Anna

Hello Anna,
The food is really good on board the ship. My favourite meal so far has been scallops in a white sauce - I guess like a mornay. It was really great - I wanted more. We have had lots of great desserts as well. I would have to say that the icecream sundae with whipped cream, almonds, wafer and banana was my favourite so far, although the chocolate mousse was delicious as well. Some of my Australian friends on board love all the different cheeses.




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