Unravelling the impact of sea ice loss on the Arctic marine ecosystem

  • Callum Whyte, Arctic PRIZE
  • Callum Whyte, Arctic PRIZE
  • Callum Whyte, Arctic PRIZE

Project Eco-Light looks to evaluate how changes in the snow and ice regime impact the timing and duration of primary productivity of the Arctic Ocean, including the grazing habits of zooplankton.

During our first icebreaker cruise to the Pacific sector of the Arctic on-board the IBRV Araon, we will be deploying 2 ice mass balance buoys to measure snow depth and ice thickness, 2 snow buoys for measuring snow depth as well as sea level pressure, air temperature and sea surface temperature, 1 optical buoy to measure incoming sunlight on top of the ice and also below the ice and 1 acoustic zooplankton fish profiler. A CTD will additionally measure ocean properties (temperature and salinity).

Proposed cruise track of the IBRV Araon in the Pacific sector of the Arctic during summer 2018. Image courtesy of the Korea Polar Research Institute.

Sun, Snow, Ice, and Rainbows, 21 August 2018

By Indea Rogers

Last day of ice camp was bitter sweet, maybe just bitter? Do we really have to leave this beautiful ice landscape where both great research and memories have been made? Of course before leaving our exquisite floe we had to take a group picture. The air was buzzing as the whole crew gathered on the ice floe holding up flags from their home countries to take the picture. Maybe it was the fact the sun decided to make an appearance and there was no wind so it felt unusually warm, but scientists and crew members alike started having snow ball fights, making snow angels, and taking silly photos with a snow man that was created. Fun was had by all, as the stress of trying to collect all the data and deploy multiple buoys in a short amount of time was now over.  We even had an Arctic rainbow make an appearance.

Of course there were still a few measurements to be made on the ice and lots of lab work to be done, but the general vibe throughout the ship is more relaxed then previous days. The rest of the cruise will be spent writing ship reports, packing up gear, and cleaning up the rooms we have taken over and made our home. There are a few mooring stations to stop at on the way to Barrow, but the cruise is coming to end. It will be strange saying goodbye to the scientists and crewmembers who have become like family in a short amount of time. I suppose that is what happens when you spend every day with the same people for almost a month, another side-effect of fieldwork.

If there is a will there is a way, 20 August 2018

By Indea Rogers

Every moment of spare time for the Trios RASMSES spectral team was spent trying to figure out how to get an irradiance measurement under the ice with our broken sensor. If there was a solution to the problem, Alex was determined to find it. Eventually, after networking with other scientists on board, another irradiance sensor was procured for use. Now under-ice optical measurements with irradiance and radiance sensors are under way!  The catch is that we could only collect un-calibrated irradiance data (e.g. raw sensor counts).

By the end of both ice camps, 11 different locations were sampled on 3 separate floes. At each location, we drilled 10-inch auger holes and lowered the sensors under the ice using an L-arm to record spectral light radiation. This step alone would take an hour or two, as often the inclination was incorrect because the irradiance sensor was slightly angled under the ice, a difficult thing to correct for. All have agreed that if/when we return to the Arctic, a different procedure needs to be developed. The second step in the procedure was taking three ice-cores in the same area. After drilling the ice cores they were sawed into three sections, and using a thermistor the temperature of the sections were recorded. These cores will then be analyzed in the lab for ice algae, salinity and High Pressure Liquid Chromotography (HPLC) looking for chlorophyll alpha (a) absorption. At the first ice camp, we additionally had a testing of a Zooplankton buoy with an Acoustic Zooplankton Fish Profiler along with zooplankton net casts to find out more about zooplankton grazing under the ice.

At the second ice camp, the sun shined most of the time and wind was nearly inexistent, which made deploying the second snow buoy and melt pond Ice Mass Buoy (IMB) quite pleasant. The combinations of these various IMBs on different ice floes (melt pond, bio-optic, zooplankton, and snow buoy) will give insight to how different environmental parameters influence light availability, which can be correlated with ice algae biomass and phytoplankton taxonomy. The data from these buoys is already being collected and analyzed.

Movement of the floe (ice camp 2) within 24 hours

Unlike previous years no one has gotten seriously injured, no helicopters have crashed or broken down, and bad weather has not deterred any fieldwork on this cruise. However, our lead ice scientist, Joo-Hong likely did break his finger early on in the cruise when a door shut on it. Even so he persevered. Everyone in the ice camp team is feeling jazzed and accomplished by the success of the mission.

Buoy Time, 18-19 August 2018

By Indea Rogers

Korean barbeque night tasted even more delicious after all day out on the ice collecting under-ice light observations. Since we had only four days of ice camp, buoy deployment had to start after dinner. About two miles from the ship, the helicopter was making trip after trip shuttling people and gear to a spot on the same floe surveyed earlier in the day. This location had slightly thicker ice necessary for two Ice Mass Buoy (IMB) deployments and a snow buoy.  The strategy for buoy deployment is to have a snow buoy next to a melt pond buoy system, and on this first deployment we additionally added a bio-optic buoy.  The spectral radiation/ice-tethered bio-optic buoy is different than the melt pond IMBs as they measure florescence and dissolved oxygen to study primary production events and nutrient availability. The MetOcean snow buoy measures snow depth at four separate points, together with barometric pressure, air and sea surface temperature and provide valuable information on seasonal snow depth evolution.

Prof Stroeve and myself were in charge of the snow buoy deployment. In order to deploy the snow buoy, we drilled a 1-meter thick hole using the 10-inch auger and very carefully lowered the instrument into the ice. Paying close attention to details and being very careful not to drop any small parts into the snow, all the pieces were connected and the instrument was turned on, ready to go! It was easy to stay warm during these deployments as one had to hammer in ice-anchors into the frozen floe (to keep the buoy in place) and drill many auger holes in order to find the perfect sea-ice thickness away from melt ponds (i.e. thinner ice) and ridges (i.e. seams of the ice). Of course all the stabilizing of the buoy and zip tying of the cables is futile if a polar bear decides to wreak havoc on the instrument out of curiosity.

The Ice Mass Buoy (IMB) deployment into a melt pond was a little more involved, as about 6 hours were needed to complete it. After choosing a melt pond that was up to everyone standards, you then had to break the ice layer on top. This involved hammering the ice and filling sleds with giant ice chunks. Even after removing the ice layer of the pond, the work was not over. One had to stand in the melt pond itself and strain the remaining slush within the pond, until it is pristine clear water. This process required more extensive gear, as when I tried it myself, after about ten minutes of standing in the pond, my boots were full of frozen pond water. Another few hours of connecting cables and building the frame for the various sensors and the buoy was ready to be carefully lowered all the way through the ice. There are many different components to the melt pond IMBs. Some of the instruments measure sea ice and snow thickness, some record upward and downward solar radiation within the melt pond and at the bottom of the ice. There are also sensors that measure barometric pressure, salinity at different depths, and temperature of the air, snow, melt pond, and ice. All of these sensors must be strategically placed and neatly organized in order to accurately send data to us in real time and survive at least a few weeks (hopefully a full year!) out on the floe. By the end of ice camp three of these melt pond IMBs will be deployed.

If the choosing of the sites for these instruments proves to be stable and the ice floe does not collapse, then the various buoys will help answer questions about how different sea-ice properties fluctuate throughout an annual cycle. The process of deploying these buoys demonstrated the impacts of increased melting of Arctic sea-ice, as it was nearly impossible to find ice floes thicker than 2-meters, and the ice was severely water saturated (auger holes would fill with water). Maybe we will have better luck at our second ice camp, which we are moving to at midnight.


Ice Camp! 17 August 2018

By Indea Rogers

Regardless of the late night the evening before, ice-camp activities were underway by the crack of dawn (that is if the sun ever fully set). By 7:30 am survey teams were out marking melt ponds and measuring sea-ice thickness. By 10 am everyone with ice-data to collect was outside, dispersed throughout the ice in their matching bright red mustang suits. Not only are the mustang suits extremely warm, but also if any of us fall through the ice we float! The only downside is the strange dances required in order to get in and out of the suits.

Scientists were huddled in various groups in front of the ship with bear guards on the perimeter. Some groups were deploying buoys, others were taking ice cores for algae, nutrients, and taxonomy purposes, and others were draining melt ponds, measuring and observing temperature and salinity gradients, among many other projects. By noon you had to pay close attention to where you were walking, not only because of natural melt ponds and ridges, but because the ice was now scattered with 10-30 cm holes in random places, as a result of drilling though the ice. If you were not careful it was easy to fall through with one foot, drenching your socks.

Lots of science is happening! An underwater drone was deployed, which scanned the bottom of the ice floe. In the footage you can see algae growing as well as the movement of the fresh water layer over the salt-water layer, leading to more questions and ideas for future research. Many members of the Ecolight team were successfully collecting their data. Unfortunately that could not be said for everyone. The same irradiance sensor that was causing problems from the very beginning decided to cause some more. The majority of the morning and afternoon revolved around trouble shooting the computer software attached to the irradiance sensor while fingers went numb from the cold. When not dealing with software issues, a lot of time was spent putting pieces of the L-arm (which places the sensor under the sea-ice) back together as it kept falling apart. Lots of lessons were learned, such as how not to lose a screw in the snow or how to triple check that all the pieces of an instrument are actually attached before leaving the ship.

Eventually however, the irradiance sensor functioned long enough for us to take a helicopter a few miles away and collect measurements on a different floe. Just in the few hours that we remained on the remote ice floe it had drifted about 0.7 nautical miles. If the ice is thin enough and you lay down, you can actually feel this movement of the ice happening in real time. Visibility was poor so the helicopter flew very low and dropped us off in a lovely melt pond. Trudging through the ice and water with heavy gear to get to the perfect sampling spot is hard work, but is all part of the fun and adventure that helps bring us to the Arctic in the first place.

Floe Finding! 16 August 2018

By Indea Rogers

After two survey flights, and about 4-5 hours out on the ice and in the air, we finally found our floe at 79 degrees North! The second of the two survey flights was more eventful than its passengers had anticipated however. The helicopter left the Araon ship at 23:00 and retuned to the ship at 3:00 am. The helicopter, which contained the pilot and four scientists landed 8-10 separate times. Each time our pilot would pound the helicopter into the sea-ice while keeping the engine running, just in case the sea-ice were too thin and would break. Once he deemed it safe, it was time for all the scientists to jump out, grab their gear, and take measurements of ice thickness. At each floe we used a two-inch auger to drill through the ice to measure the sea-ice thickness and the free board of the ice (the distance from the surface of the water to the top of the ice). We found floes of various thicknesses, ranging from over 2 meters deep to a mere 70 cm thick. Landing the helicopter successfully on a thin 70 cm was truly remarkable, and maybe a little risky. On each floe the salinity of melt ponds was also measured, looking for both salty and fresh water ponds. Another scientist took advantage of the survey flight to collect snow samples in their search for black carbon.

On our 8th landing, the tape measure was placed in the auger hole to measure the thickness of the ice, but unfortunately returned without its weighted counterpart. A string, attached to a metal weight was hooked into the bottom of the ice with no way to release it without the tape measure also attached. After drilling multiple holes around the stuck piece of equipment it eventually was lost to the Arctic Ocean. An unfortunate turn of events but not necessarily a rare occurrence in fieldwork.

Still, the survey flight was successful as we found our floe for ice camp, about a meter and a half thick with ridges and numerous melt ponds. Due to a slight fear of loosing the location of our precious ice floe, as well as the fact that we had only ten minutes left of fuel in the helicopter, we decided to wait for the ship to come to us rather than go to them. Using a satellite phone, we contacted the bridge with our location and waited. Even though none of us were expecting to be on the ice until three in the morning it was still a beautiful night. The sun was low on the horizon and lighting up the sky in pastel pinks, oranges, and blues. Without the hums of the ship or the helicopter you could hear the true sounds of the Arctic, or really the lack of sound. With ice and ocean as far as you could see, one simply had to just stare in wonder at the Arctic’s vastness and beauty.

Polar Bear! 13 August 2018

By Indea Rogers

At about 22:30 hours the intercom sounded throughout the Araon to announce the sighting of a polar bear! Whether you were already asleep for the evening or in the middle of something, everyone dropped what he or she was doing to rush up to the bridge or the bow of the ship and get a first glimpse of the Arctic’s top of the food chain carnivore. The bear was truly magnificent to see and the whole crew appeared mesmerized by its presence in this vast landscape; an experience that may only happen once or twice in a lifetime, possibly less with our current sea-ice melt trajectory.

Every hour or so the possibility of having a first ice-camp changes from yes this is happening, to….probably not. We were hopeful that if we sent some of our sea-ice scientists out in a helicopter that they would be able to find a large and thick enough floe for an ice-camp. The helicopter however returned too soon, and with news that the only ice they could find was small and thin broken up floes, not the ice you want to land on or drill through. So for now, the Araon ice-breaker is continuing onto more mooring stations and fingers are crossed that we will find the sea-ice needed at around 78 degrees latitude.

The ice-camp team is starting to feel a bit anxious about finding good ice floes to deploy our IMBs and snow buoys. Unfortunately to deploy these instruments, we have to be picky in choosing our ice, ideally we want pack ice but that is unlikely. So instead we need an ice-floe that is at least 1 ½ meters thick and 10-20 kilometers wide, but also a floe that will not drift too far south and melt too quickly. As we wait for our ice camp, we debate the cause of the strange dirty ice being observed. Some believe it to be the result of smoke soot from fires in Siberia and Scandinavia that have traveled to the Arctic and lingered here. While others believe the random chunks of dirty ice are coming from land and some argue that it is caused by an abundance of algae growth. Maybe the instruments on the compass deck can give us some answers when we return to land, since particle size of aerosols and downward solar radiation are being measured. This data looks at global aerosols that have travelled to the Arctic, which could be various pollutants and maybe even smoke.

Heli-net fun while skimming the EEZ, 11-12 August 2018

By Indea Rogers

In preparation for survey flights, cameras were mounted onto one of the helicopters this afternoon. One is a digital SLR camera that was mounted on the bottom of the helicopter to take pictures about every second or so in order to create a sea-ice mosaic. A second camera, a GoPro, was mounted onto the nose of the helicopter pointing forward but also slightly down towards the ice, and will be taking video. Together these two cameras create a GPS track of the sea-ice and a high-resolution official survey of the ice. By creating a mosaic accompanied by video, the scientists can label and accurately document the position of specific floes or melt ponds etc., as well as the surrounding area. This is extremely helpful, as this information can often get lost in the process of collecting all the quantitative data. As another side project for EcoLight, an additional downward looking camera on the helicopter will help map different sea-ice surface characteristics by taking pictures every 1-5 seconds in the red, green, and near infrared spectra.

Since we were all gathered on the helideck we decided to have some “heli-net fun.” Our bold Arctic air navigators (i.e. helicopter pilots) gave us a brief presentation on proper net etiquette, how to load up gear into the net properly and attach it to the helicopter hook, all while being safe of course.

We are currently located at 74.5 degrees North and only 5 kilometers from the Russian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). While skimming the Russian EEZ with clear skies it was time to take some sound bytes to send to the Arctic Base Camp Group for the Global Climate Action Summit held in San Francisco, this September. These short videos include members of the EcoLight team describing their current research and why our world leaders should be paying attention to their science. Allowing the EcoLight team’s message to extend to the public is a fundamental step in the overall goal of Arctic research, which in the big picture is to help motivate change in human behavior. We are currently tracking sea-ice conditions at the 5th lowest Pan-Arctic sea-ice extent ever recorded, which could have detrimental affects on the biological ecosystems in the Arctic as well as world wide implications.

A bit of down time, 9-10 August 2018

By Indea Rogers

The sun is shinning high and bright today, warm enough that you can join the outside world without more then a sweater. More and more polar bear tracks have been spotted, and the team spends a lot of time scanning the horizon for bears. The good news today was that the irradiance sensor finally worked. The problem that has been giving everyone on the ice-camp team a headache since day 1 was fixed by reconfiguring the cables of the mother board on the inside of the sensor (basically unplugging and plugging a cable back in). This means that taking hemispheric light measurements under the sea-ice can officially be worked into the ice-camp schedule.

After much deliberating, trying to work out what everyone needs in order to do their science, it has been proposed that we will go to a 1st ice camp further south for 24 hours before heading to ice-camp 2. The ice-team now needs to be ready to collect data in 2-3 days time, which feels like a lot more time to get organized then it actually is.  This first ice camp will consist of taking sea-ice thickness measurements, surveying of melt ponds, albedo and transmittance (ramses hyper-spectral radiometers) measurements, collecting ice-cores, and a drone flight with visible (Red, Green, Blue: RGB) and Infrared (IR). Ice-camp 1 will serve as a trial run to get used to the various gear and instruments we will be using in the second ice camp, such as the ice-corer and the 10-inch auger. That is when the real fun will begin for the ice-team.

All the IMBs have officially been set up on the helideck, tested and then taken back down, so they are now ready for deployment! For those of us who have never used augers before, we received a crash course on using power tools and how not to loose the auger bit into the Arctic Ocean or accidentally skim the top of your finger off. Essential stuff. Since most of the instruments have now gone through their test runs on the helideck the ice-camp team is in a bit of a waiting mode. There is some down time to either watch a movie, have a few Ping-Pong tournaments, or spend some time in the gym to work off all the ice cream we have all indulged in.

Ship Life, 7-8 August 2018

By Indea Rogers

At this time of year, the sun never sets this far North, and the people aboard the Araon never stop working either. Another mooring station was reached at 22:00 hours and at least one ice-pilot must remain on duty 24 hours a day. When you go to the bridge at 4:00 am to take ice observations and meteorological data, you notice the many other passengers awake as well, from individuals working in the lab, to those on the top deck outside taking measurements.  To accommodate these late hours, another meal/snack is served at 21:30 every night.

The first two IMBs on the helideck were taken down and two more were set up in their place. Trouble shooting of the unresponsive irradiance sensor also continued with a few phone calls to Germany for help, ice anchors were assembled, more mooring stations were reached, and many other various tasks continued. Walking around the labs on the main deck one can observe the various science projects in real time. You can talk to Youngiu about how she goes about measuring primary productivity using a Carbon-13 stable isotope or you can take a minute to look at some phytoplankton slides under the microscope. It is also important to take continuous trips up to the bridge to scan the sea-ice horizon with binoculars for polar bears. Although none have been spotted yet, fresh looking polar bear footprints and seal scat have been seen, so hopefully it is just a matter of time before they make their appearance.  Everyone on board is keen to get their first glimpses of the king carnivore of the Arctic.

Fresh polar bear tracks

In between all of this, ship life truly revolves around meals and the freezer, which is full of seemingly endless ice cream. Meal times are the time of day when the most interesting conversations are initiated. With so many brilliant minds in one small place, the banter and sharing of knowledge is one of the best parts of the entire Arctic research experience. How will we solve climate change? What is the most outrageous solution we can come up with? How do we communicate these ideas to the public? To our politicians? How do we scientists stay sane and hopeful when we are witnessing first hand the melting of Arctic sea-ice? All important questions, and many more will be contemplated and debated over spicy Korean food and fresh watermelon.

First ice! Monday 6 August 2018

By Indea Rogers

Seals were spotted at a distance first thing in the morning lounging on a piece of ice. Members of the ice-team were jumping with joy at the sight of the first beautiful ice sheets scattering the ocean surface. The radar on the bridge of the ship is no longer blank but freckled with detected sea-ice!

There is an additional reason for celebration. The oceanography team quickly found their first mooring, which was originally placed in the ocean at least a year prior. A mooring is a type of buoy that reaches the ocean floor and measures ocean temperature, depth, and various biological factors, such as phytoplankton and nutrients, with depth depending on the type of mooring. There are 25 mooring stations the Araon ship will be visiting on this journey, either to collect the data, or place new instruments. This data is essential for understanding the physical and biogeochemical environmental properties of the changing western Arctic Ocean. In addition, heat flux from the Bering Sea into the Chukchi Sea, circulates along the Alaskan coast and melts the sea-ice. Studies have found that the timing of when the ice retreats and forms again in autumn along the Chukchi shelf is strongly tied to this warm water inflow. Thus, these moorings will help us observe this phenomenon.

To celebrate all this fabulous science we feasted on fresh Alaskan King crab that melted in your mouth. The sound of cracking crab shells accompanied by the sound of the ship smashing through ice filled the room.

Data sharing! Sunday 5 August 2018

By Indea Rogers

The Araon made it through the Bering Straight over night and you can feel the temperature change throughout the ship. While the water temperature remains a warm 10 degrees Celsius, when standing on the outside of the ship, the chill from the Chukchi Sea reminds you just how far North you are.

The snow buoys are working! A satellite phone call confirmed that the buoys set up on the helideck yesterday are transmitting data back to AWI, so we took them apart and placed back into their wooden crates for transport to the ice camps.

The next task consisted of assembling the Ice Mass Buoys (IMB) on the helideck. This included detangling and attaching four salinity sensors, a camera, a thermister string (measures the temperature profile at different depths), solar radiation sensors and a tilt (measures the angle of the solar radiation instruments relative to nadir) to the IMB Pelican case, which houses the electronics and a large battery.  Salinity sensors were placed in a bin filled with salt water. These IMBs will sit on the helideck for 24 hours, and if we receive the green light that everything is operational, we will take these apart the next day and store until deployment.

Exciting things are happening on the Araon! The first weather balloon was launched and new ones will be launched every six hours. The Radiosonde weather balloons measure air temperature, pressure, humidity and broadcasts the data in near-real-time (NRT) to the Korean Metrological Administration, which is then sent to the WMO-GTS (Global Telecommunication System) .

This NRT broadcasting of atmospheric profiles, as well as data from the vessel during the launch, makes this critical data available to anyone who wishes to access it.  While there have been thousands of weather balloons launched around the world, very few have been launched over the ocean, and even less in the Arctic.

Sea-ice observations have also commenced. While currently we are staring out at the open-ocean, meteorology data, weather data, ship data, and location are being recorded every three hours. Satellite images suggest we will begin to observe ice by tomorrow morning! Thanks to Dr. Julienne Stroeve for giving a presentation on how to use the Arctic Shipborne Sea Ice Standardization Tool (ASSIST) to collect these in situ sea-ice observations. Now anyone on board who wants to get involved can!


Happy Saturday! 4 August 2018

By Indea Rogers

“Abandon ship!” Is what was heard over the speakers in both English and Korean following a loud fire alarm during our practice safety demonstration. We all assembled in lines and struggled to shimmy into our full body survival suits that made everyone look like giant orange penguins. After double-checking that each personal flotation device had all the correct safety features such as a light beacon, working whistle etc., the loading into the lifeboat procedure was demonstrated. Now hopefully, if we were ever forced to actually abandon ship, we would all be calm and prepared.

When doing fieldwork two things often happen. Sometimes the instruments and gear work flawlessly and at other times, you will work for hours trying to troubleshoot a piece of equipment that functioned perfectly in the lab, but no longer works. This is the case with an irradiance sensor we brought with us from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI). We have two light instruments, an irradiance and radiance sensor, both designed to measure the amount of sunlight incident at the surface of the ice, the amount reflected by the ice, and when the sensor is placed below the ice, how much light is transmitted through the ice. The radiance sensor appears to be working; this sensor detects the directional solar radiation coming from a small view angle (given in units of W m-1 sr-1). The irradiance sensor detects solar radiation over the full hemisphere (e.g. 180 degrees), which is the radiation coming from all directions. The irradiance sensor is critical to understanding the total amount of light that gets transmitted through the sea ice as opposed to that from a narrow beam. Light is a crucial component of life for many organisms, especially the algae at the bottom of the ice. Yet, even with trying a new sensor with the computer software, restarting the computer, and reprograming the software, the computer and instrument are not communicating. We will next attempt to use a different computer to see if that solves the problem. That is tomorrow’s project.

The helideck is also slowly being taken over by projects. Two snow buoys were removed from their crates and constructed to understand proper assembling procedure before being deployed in the field and to ensure the instruments are functioning as expected. These buoys, if all goes according to plan, will be deployed into multiyear ice and ideally monitor snow depth over the course of a year. Once they were securely strapped to the helideck, it was time to enjoy Saturday night Korean barbeque. Unlike other nights, Saturdays are reserved for cooking delicious meat and vegetables on a grill at your own table and enjoying a cold beer.

After dinner, the ice-camp scientist team met with the polar bear guards and helicopter pilots to discuss logistics. It is essential to review best-practice protocols in order to be safe on the ice as well as entering and exiting the helicopters. As the chief polar bear guard, Lester Robert Bruce articulates, “Control the people not the bears”. With so many various projects and modes of collecting data, there are many logistics to work out. The ice-camp team will likely have more meetings in the near future as plans are further solidified.

Departure! Friday 3 August 2018

By Indea Rogers

It took at least a dozen helicopter trips from the Nome, Alaska airport to the RV Araon ship sitting in the bay to get all the scientists and crew members from 9 different nations and 19 separate institutions aboard the vessel. Shortly after arriving on board, the organization of gear and unpacking of instruments began.

Scientists started to converse about the best ways to collect data, what types of projects individuals are working on and trying to trouble shoot instruments and data collection plans.

After dinner at 19:00, everyone met in the galley and introduced themselves and their science goals for the next three and a half weeks ahead. Some important individuals include our valiant captain of the ship, the chief scientist, our brave polar bear guards, and our essential ice pilots, among many others. It was revealed that many projects are focused on zooplankton and phytoplankton, looking at their grazing habitats, overall marine environmental conditions, and their relationship to changes in the sea-ice and snow regimes.  Other research endeavors include sea-ice satellite monitoring, projects in oceanography, and our sea-ice “EcoLight” project. EcoLight seeks to understand how our changing Arctic sea-ice environment is connected with both light transmission and absorption, the timing and duration of primary production events, and zooplankton population and habits, all of which are affected by variations in snow and ice regimes.

After the introductions were concluded, everyone dispersed to continue their work, whether from setting up a lab or trying acquire ones sea legs. The ship will remain in the Bering Sea outside of Nome overnight until the vessel embarks on its journey at noon tomorrow. It will take several days to reach the ice, which gives everyone time to test instruments and collaborate over science.  The key question on our minds is, will we find thick enough ice to deploy our instruments?