CACHE mascots, Clarence and Clemmie, continue their blog from Antarctica – Part III:
“Now we have settled into base life, we are starting our new career in science. But obviously they are not just going to let us media celebrities loose in a lab or the aquarium without proper training and supervision, so here we are getting an introduction to the labs from Ali, the Bonner lab manager.
The Bonner lab is the marine laboratory at Rothera. It’s a 5 minute walk from the main buildings (downhill on the way there, uphill and often a lot longer in a gale on the way back: Why is the wind always against you when you want your lunch?). It has really good laboratories, an aquarium and the dive centre. It is named after Nigel Bonner, an iconic early Antarctic scientist who studied seals in the 1950’s and 60’s. He was also Deputy Director of the British Antarctic Survey, where we now work.
Clearly being clams we are limited in what we can do, but we are very enthusiastic and are keen to tell you about the science going on at Rothera. So what have we been helping with? Well, Dr Mel does not dive, but she helps the dive team with “seal watch”. 30 minutes before each dive, someone has to keep a look out for Orca whales and leopard seals. These are the two big predators around here and obviously the divers do not want to get into the water if Orcas are around. So here we are helping Dr Mel with seal watch.
Don’t you just love that wonderful orange boiler suit? Apparently it’s nice and warm (which is the main thing), but we do like the furry hat and mukluks (the big thick warm boots). As they say in the fashion magazines, the hat and boots are the model’s own!
Staying with outdoor theme, we also went with Dr Mel, Brina and Sam on a CTD survey. CTD stands for Conductivity, Temperature and Depth. It’s a piece of equipment that is lowered into the water with a winch to 500 metres, which takes measurements of, obviously, conductivity and temperature through the water column as it is lowered down. At Rothera they do this twice a week in the summer and once a week in the winter (weather permitting). They now have records going back to 1997 and this long-term dataset is really important because if we want to understand the effects of climate change, we need to understand not only how the environment is changing over decades, but also how the environment varies over the year and from year to year. So that if we see a difference over a number of years, for example an increasing trend in water temperature, then we will be able to work out if it is natural variation or if the temperature really is changing.
To do this you need lots of measurements over a lot of years. The project that is doing this at Rothera is called the RaTS programme, which stands for Rothera Oceanographic and Biological Time series, full details at http://www.antarctica.ac.uk//staff-profiles/webspace/mmm/RaTS/RaTS.html. There you go! More later! Oh and Sam would like to say ‘Hello’ to his Mum and Dad!”