ASM 2024 Participants

BIOPOLE Annual Science Meeting 2024

The 2nd BIOPOLE Annual Science Meeting took place from the 6th to the 8th of March 2024 at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge and online. BIOPOLE Project Members, Early Career Researchers (ECRs), Members of the Programme Advisory Board (PAB), Science and Strategic Partners were invited to participate. Around 50 in-person and 13 virtual participants attended the hybrid BIOPOLE Annual Science Meeting.

The meeting spanned through three days and was filled with fruitful discussions, great scientific talks, exciting presentations, interesting keynotes and much more. All sessions were chaired by BIOPOLE Early Career Researchers (ECRs).

The first day kicked off with the project overview and work package presentations, where all four BIOPOLE work packages (WPs) (WP1 – Inputs, WP2 – Processes, WP3 – Impacts, WP4 – Management) presented the progress of work.

The poster session followed. After the poster session, quick-fire talks took place, after which we had a discussion.

The second day started with the ECRs’ breakfast. After the breakfast, Guang Yang delivered a keynote on ‘Zooplankton mediated carbon pumps’.

Next, we learned about the major BIOPOLE fieldwork efforts in Arctic (Arctic ships), Ny Alesund, and Southern Ocean (BIOPOLE Cruise I).

Presentations on data management, the Decade Collaborative Centre for the Southern Ocean Region (DCC-SOR), and Arctic policy were delivered, along with updates from the ECRs.

We then had four breakout sessions before lunch and four afterward. After the breakout session, Katrin Linse delivered a keynote on ‘Benthic elements of BIOPOLE’. We closed the day with the Executive Board and Programme Advisory Board meeting.

The third and the last day of the meeting started with the ECR-led session on the ‘Imposter syndrome: taming your inner critic’. Following that, we heard the rapporteurs’ reports from the breakout sessions and engaged in a discussion. Further, the PAB delivered an insightful report for the project. Before we concluded the meeting, we had a couple of discussion sessions on ‘Interaction with partners and within the project to achieve key BIOPOLE objectives in Arctic and Antarctic’ as well as ‘BIOPOLE into the future and lessons learned’.  

We would like to express our gratitude to every single individual for their work in BIOPOLE and for their participation in the meeting be it in-person or virtual.

SD033 crew and science party at one of the sea ice stations

BIOPOLE Southern Ocean Cruise 1 Successfully Completed

British Antarctic Survey recently led the highly successful BIOPOLE Southern Ocean Cruise I (Nov-Dec 2023), which was the first ‘formal’ scientific voyage of the RRS Sir David Attenborough (SD033). Taking place over 10 days in an otherwise logistic-heavy six-week schedule, BIOPOLE I was the first funded scientific project undertaken on our new research vessel. The objectives of this cruise addressed a range of Tasks under Work Packages 1-3. It sought to understand the role that annual sea ice retreat plays in setting the conditions for the spring bloom and how this bloom acts to draw down carbon from the atmosphere and sequester it in the deep ocean. In addition, the fortuitous placement of the A23a megaberg allowed us to undertake opportunistic sampling of how the colossal chunk of the Filchner ice shelf, first calving in 1986, is modifying the physical and biogeochemical properties of the surrounding ocean as it moves northwards. This ‘encounter’ with the world’s largest iceberg and the associated drone footage also generated massive media interest across the globe.

BIOPOLE I was undertaken by an 11-person science team, including BIOPOLE scientists Andrew Meijers (Principal Scientific Officer, physics), Nadine Johnston (ecosystems), Gabi Stowasser (ecosystems), Alex Brearley (gliders), Petra ten Hoopen (data manager), and BIOPOLE PhD student Laura Taylor (biogeochemistry), brilliantly supported by BAS Antarctic Marine Engineering, IT, data and lab management personnel, during an intense 10-day period in early December. The small team was ably backed up by significant shore-based support, both for glider piloting but also troubleshooting, sample and data processing. The survey section stretched across the rapidly retreating ice edge from the northwest of the Powell Basin to well into the Weddell Sea and 100% pack ice; and back out again. Over 1640 individual water samples were taken from the more than 30 CTDs, along with 10 Mammoth and almost 30 Bongo net deployments. The voyage also deployed three autonomous gliders, including two capable of novel under-ice navigation. These presently remain in the water  following the development of the spring bloom and further retreat of the ice, and are providing greater spatio-temporal context to the ship-based process study.  Additionally, personnel were craned onto the sea ice to collect sea ice cores in support of BAS PhD projects, and a mooring rescued at short notice from the path of A23a.

SD033 crew and science party at one of the sea ice stations

BIOPOLE I’s objectives were to determine the dynamics, biogeochemical composition and structural change in the upper water column as the ocean moves seasonally from being fully ice covered to fully exposed, as well as determine the structure and composition of the spring phytoplankton bloom and associated mesozooplankton community, particularly the copepod Calanoides acutus. The emphasis on copepods is part of the core BIOPOLE objective of quantifying the lipid component of the biological carbon pump. Over the course of their development, C. acutus develop a large carbon-rich lipid sac, primarily to fuel their metabolism and aid buoyancy during their winter diapause (a form of hibernation used to survive low food levels and avoid predation) at depths of (potentially) up to 2500 m.  This deep diapause acts to transport carbon from the atmosphere to the deep ocean, but this transport has never been quantified despite the vast biomass that copepods represent.

Using a combination of respiration experiments together with investigations of their lipid sac concentration and size, population structure, distribution, and abundance, we can determine how much carbon this species is capable of transporting to the deep ocean, and its influence on nutrient recycling in the upper water column. The results of this cruise will be complemented by work carried out in the austral summer of 2022/23 onboard RRS Discovery (DY158) and a further BIOPOLE cruise in the austral autumn of Feb/Mar 2025 onboard RRS Sir David Attenborough where the late season condition of copepods will be assessed.

Despite fears of ‘first cruise’ teething issues the ship and personnel performed near perfectly.  The SDA demonstrated its great capabilities; switching speedily between logistics and science, and easily handling challenging ice conditions, all whilst providing an unprecedented level of comfort for expeditioners!  As ever a massive thank you must go to the officers and crew of the SDA, for delivering successful science with enthusiasm and skill, as well as to the science and support party who pulled together and supported one another at all times to produce some excellent and exciting new data.

BIOPOLE also attracted extensive media coverage during this cruise. The opportunistic science carried out at megaberg A23a had a high media profile, with the article initially in BBC News online leading to a number of further interviews by the global press of a number of scientists on board. These included lengthy interviews with Andrew on the BBC news channel and news hour as well as CBS streaming news, Laura on CBC News Canada, and Alex on CNN’s Tik Tok channel! Nadine gave interviews on the BIOPOLE 1 cruise and A23a on BBC Science in Action, BBC Inside Science, and BBC’s World tonight. Nadine also participated in STEM learning’s 2023 Protecting Our Planet Day Protecting Our Ice Session which was led by BAS PhD student Rosanne Smith and broadcast live from the RRS SDA and Rothera Research Station, and viewed by 54, 696 people (51,600 young people and 3, 096 adults).

Cruise track of SD033, with the inset showing the location of BIOPOLE I science across the sea ice edge

The authors of the article – Andrew Meijers, Nadine Johnston, Laura Taylor, Gabriele Stowasser, Alexander Brearley, and Petra ten Hoopen from British Antarctic Survey

Meet the Team

Gabriele Stowasser

  • Please introduce yourself.

I am a Marine Ecologist working within the Ecosystems team at the British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge. Over the last 15 years I have mainly worked on the trophic relationships in polar marine ecosystems and the marine ecosystems of the British Overseas Territories. I am interested in the spatial and temporal functioning of marine food webs and use a combination of biochemical analytical methods to identify key trophic linkages in the pelagic and benthic realms of the ocean. In recent years I have also been involved in work investigating the role of zooplankton and fish in the carbon cycling of the ocean. I divide most of my time between participating in cruises and analysing samples in the laboratory here in Cambridge.

  • What do you do within BIOPOLE and what have you enjoyed about BIOPOLE so far?

In BIOPOLE I am part of WP2 which focuses on biological processes that contribute to the carbon transport into the deep ocean. In November last year I had the good fortune to be part of the first BIOPOLE cruise. With a fantastic team on board, we set out to determine the dynamics, biochemical composition and structural change in the upper water column in the northern part of the Weddell Sea as the ocean moves seasonally from being fully ice covered to fully exposed. My part of the cruise was managing the deployment of our fishing nets to sample the meso-zooplankton community associated with the spring phytoplankton bloom.  

  • Tell us about a skill or trait unique to you that you would like to share?

When I am not at sea or in the office I like to go hiking and enjoy the music and theatre that Cambridge and London have to offer.  

Gabriele Stowasser from British Antarctic Survey

Draft infographic illustrating the range of modelling and observational activities being undertaken through BIOPOLE.

BIOPOLE Sets up Modelling-Observations Working Group

The Modelling-Observations Working Group (WG) was established following the first BIOPOLE annual meeting to enhance the links between the modelling work and observational campaigns. Regular meetings between modellers at NOC and BAS had been taking place since the start of the project to ensure a synergy in modelling effort across the institutes. However, there was a clear need for an equivalent forum for the exchange of ideas and information between modellers and observationalists in the BIOPOLE community, hence the Modelling-Observations WG was formed. The WG now involves 19 members from all four work packages with representatives from NOC, BAS, CEH, and Exeter University. Meetings of the full WG currently take place approximately every 6 months, with more focussed monthly meetings targeting specific work packages or work streams.

The main aims of the WG are as follows:

  • Identify links between modelling efforts and encourage collaboration.
  • Discuss data needs of modelling efforts and identify sources (databases or field campaigns).
  • Identify data gaps to inform targeted data collection and fieldwork planning.
  • Identify opportunities for integrating modelling efforts with observational data to inform interpretation of key processes.

Contributing to the last of these aims, collaborative work involving NOC modellers and biological oceanographers is ongoing to understand the processes involved in generating regions of de-oxygenation in the Chukchi Sea, which were identified in the recent Chukchi Sea cruise. Such regions may impact the regional ecosystem and dependent fisheries and it is important to understand the underlying physical and biogeochemical processes.

One of the key outputs of the WG so far has been the development of new BIOPOLE infographics that capture the range of modelling activities being undertaken and how they link to the observational campaigns. Drawing on Jen Freer’s creativity and mastery of PowerPoint, two draft designs have been developed; the first is targeted at a general audience (Figure 1) whilst the second provides a more detailed picture of the modelling work and is suitable for a more specialist audience. The draft designs may be found on the BIOPOLE shared drive in the Modelling-Observations WG directory, and we would welcome feedback from the BIOPOLE community. The intention is to produce infographics that broadly follow the design of the BIOPOLE concept graphic. The designs will be professionally produced and will be available for use in posters, talks, and other promotional activities.

Figure 1: Draft infographic illustrating the range of modelling and observational activities being undertaken through BIOPOLE.

The author of the article – Emma Young (British Antarctic Survey)

Career Pathways Session for BIOPOLE ECRs

Following on from our successful first event in January 2023, in November the BIOPOLE ECR network hosted the second event in our Careers Pathway Series, which provide an opportunity for mid- to late-career BIOPOLE members to share their career journeys and for ECRs to ask questions and advice about how they got to their current position.  

We had three excellent panellists from across different BIOPOLE work packages: Prof Kate Hendry (BAS), Dr Andrew Yool (NOC), and Dr Huw Griffiths (BAS). The panellists shared their different pathways and experiences from undergraduate to postgraduate study, PhD and post docs, fellowships and on to permanent positions. The session was very rewarding and generated great discussions about proposal writing, the importance of mentorship, and the process of writing fellowship applications as well as the transition from ECR to mid-career scientist.  

Amy Swiggs, a PhD student in Work Package 1, said of the session: “It was fantastic to see such a variety of career paths and the different ways that you can achieve your goals. There can be a lot of challenges in progressing your career, and it was great to demystify some of the key stages, including proposal writing and fellowship applications”. 

A huge thanks to the panellists for their time, candour and willingness to engage with us – it was a really interesting and useful discussion. The session also developed a new mentor-mentee pairing following discussions about the parallels between Huw’s career pathway and the pathway that Alanna is hoping to take, which was a great outcome of the session. We hope to run similar meetings in our Careers Pathway Series, and we are always looking for panellists to share their experience, so please do get in touch with the ECR representative if you would like to be involved. In addition, our BIOPOLE Mentoring Scheme is well underway, and if you are interested in becoming a mentor or mentee, please get in touch, or see the BIOPOLE SharePoint for further information. 

The authors of the blog  – Chelsey Baker (NOC) and Amy Swiggs (Northumbria University)

Communicating and Connecting to Our Science via Poetry

Back in 2022, I had the pleasure of attending a few poetry workshops at the British Antarctic Survey. These were hosted by the then poet-in-residence, Elizabeth Lewis-Williams. I soon learned that poetry was not only a great way to tell stories, communicate scientific research and inspire others. Poems can also help us to re-connect to our own research and the wonders of the ocean, something that is not always easy to do when the challenges it faces (and academic pressures we face) so often dominate our conversations. 

With Elizabeth’s encouragement, I wrote a poem, A Tale of Light and Fear, which tries to capture some of that wonder. It is set in the Southern Ocean and tells the story of vertical migration and the drivers of this behaviour: Light (creating food-rich, sun-lit surface waters and a darker, deeper twilight zone) and Fear (of being seen by a predator). The daily rhythm of the sunrise and sunset is mirrored by the rise and fall of the migrators, yet in the polar regions there is an additional complexity: extreme seasonality. When the sun departs, many polar species of zooplankton spend the entire winter at depth, surviving off of energy stores they have accumulated in the summer.  

Whether happening on a daily or seasonal scale, these movements by individual animals culminate in the transport of carbon to depths where it will remain locked up for centuries. Gaining a better understanding of this seasonal migration is one of BIOPOLE’s key objectives: can we better quantify this behaviour in the Southern Ocean? And what impact does it have on the global ocean carbon cycle? 

The poem is now published in the latest edition of Antarktikos, an annual art-science publication founded by the artist and explorer Esther Kokmeijer and is focused on Antarctica. This second issue has the theme of “Light and Shadow” and is divided into three parts “Into the Cosmos”, “On the Continent” and “Into the Depths”.  Continuing this collaboration with Elizabeth, and joining forces with JETZON, we are running a series of poetry workshops in early 2024. Developed for ECRs, we hope that these will be fun, friendly and inclusive spaces for more researchers to explore how poetry can be used both to reconnect with and to communicate science. 

The author of the article – Jennifer Freer (British Antarctic Survey)

A Tale of Light and Fear

Jennifer Freer

By September the Sun is rising.

As if returning from a long meditation

in Hawaii

or Greece.

Her gift is warm light

which thaws the old routine

to say the least.

Freed from an icy cell

the phyto-plankton

or floating fixers

fix new energy

inside their own glass shell.

Dawn is light and growth and death

sun up — inhale —

one more breath.

Dusk is darkness and safe respite

sun down — exhale —

out of sight.

Her rhythm echoes

hundreds of metres below

in bands of dwindling light

called isolumes.

These fall as She rises

and rise as She falls

minute by minute

shifting the limits

of light and fear.

A lightscape of fear

for the zoo-plankton

or floating wee beasties.

They fear eyes with teeth

lying in wait

for that one ill-timed move

Up

To the vital bloom.

To the deadly bait.

Dawn is light and growth and death

swim down — exhale —

one more breath.

Dusk is darkness and safe respite

Swim up — inhale —

out of sight.

Their ascent begins as the light goes out.

A migration of millions of millions.

Jellies drift

pteropods fly

copepods hop and worms writhe.

Fish and krill of all stages and size

arrive.

To feast and be feasted upon.

To live and to die!

To scatter Sun’s energy

far and wide.

The dead pass it on

the rest respire it below

a living-breathing-carbon-flow.

From sunbeam to seabed

via millions of millions of

invisible breaths.

Dawn is light and growth and death

sun up — swim down —

one more breath.

Dusk is darkness and safe respite

Swim up — sun down —

out of sight.

By March the Sun is leaving.

As if on her own migration

or pilgrimage North

to Alaska.

Her gift is cold silence

which they’ll thank her for

eventually.

For it’s in the dim of winter

when there’s no way up

only through

that they realise just what they’re made of

what riches

they never knew.

RV Polarstern through the fog

BIOPOLE at the North Pole

On the 2nd August 2023, I (BIOPOLE researcher Dr Kathryn Cook, University of Exeter) joined the RV Polarstern in Tromsø, along with project partners Morten Iversen and Sinhue Torres-Valdes (AWI), to participate in the 9-week ArcWatch 1 (PS138) cruise to the central Arctic.  The overall aim of the 50 scientists participating on the cruise was to study the physics, chemistry, and biology of the sea ice, but I was invited along to collect samples to help address BIOPOLE WP2 deliverable ‘What controls the depth at which polar copepods diapause, and their physiological rates during overwintering?’.

I used a Hydro-Bios Midi Multinet (thanks to project partner Barbara Niehoff, AWI) to sample the important Arctic lipid storing copepods Calanus hyperboreus, Calanus glacialis, and possibly the northern North Atlantic interloper Calanus finmarchicus (we’ll have to wait for molecular confirmation to find out) throughout the upper 1500m of the water column.  I was also able to take samples from immediately below the sea ice using a net attached to an ROV affectionately known as ‘The Beast’.  We took samples at 9 ice stations, including the MOSAiC station and the North Pole.  These samples will be used to quantify the biomass (carbon and nitrogen), lipid content and composition, and estimate the metabolic rates using enzyme assays (Electron Transport System (ETS) activity as a measure of respiration rate; Amino-Acyl-t-RNA-Synthetases (AARS) activity as a measure of growth).  These data will be used to inform life-cycle food-web models and will be available to WP3 to help develop simplified, global parameterisations of the lipid pump and improve estimates of the amount of carbon sequestered in the mesopelagic ocean.

First steps on the ice. Kathryn Cook (University of Exeter)

As well as being very successful scientifically, this cruise was, by far, the most exciting research trip I have been on in my career to date.  Just getting out on the sea ice was amazing, but we also had helicopter excursions to measure ice thickness, a polar bear coming to play with ‘The Beast’, live footage of sea mounts and hydrothermal vents courtesy of the OFOBS (Ocean Floor Observation and Bathymetry), live music courtesy of The ArcWatchers (featuring project partner Morten Iversen) and of course being, literally, on top of the world.  We were accompanied by a media team who wrote regular social media posts, blogs (Arctic August – October 2023 – AWI Polarstern) and German newspaper articles, as well as a documentary film crew.  The documentary ARCWATCH – HOPE IN THE ICE was broadcast on 29 December 2023 at 9:45 p.m. by German broadcaster ARD and is available (in Germany) in the ARD Media Library.  There should be an international version released at some point, so watch this space.

Wrestling ‘The Beast’ with net into a hole in the ice to sample under ice copepods. L-R Kim Vane (AWI), Emiliano Cimoli (University of Tasmania), Marcel Nicolaus, Julia Regnery (AWI).

The author of the blog – Kathryn Cook (University of Exeter)

Meet the Team

Stefanie Rynders

  • Please introduce yourself.

I’m a physical oceanographer working in the Marine Systems Modeling group at the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton. I develop models, mainly of the Arctic Ocean across different components of the system. Projects I have worked on so far range from fundamental physics to practical applications and climate scales. BIOPOLE has got me more involved in biogeochemistry and the connection between land and ocean.

  • What do you do within BIOPOLE?

I am part of WP1 and WP3. In work package 1 we look at nutrient inputs and I have calculated nutrient inputs from coastal erosion specifically. We made a model based erosion rate estimate, which should serve both for the historical period and future projections. I also check our existing biogeochemistry models against observational data, including from the BIOPOLE cruises. This has already highlighted some areas where improvements can be made. For work package 3 I’ll be investigating the connectivity of nutrient fluxes from the Arctic into the North Atlantic. The North Atlantic is expected to become more stratified in the future, hindering access to nutrients. So, a nutrient boost from the Arctic could be good for the ecosystem and support future fisheries.

  • What have you enjoyed about BIOPOLE so far?

The best thing about BIOPOLE is that it is such a well-integrated project across the centres. It is fun to hear about other people’s research in completely different areas every month. I have learned a lot about hydrology just by joining the meetings, though the complexity of molecular analysis in the lab still blows my mind! We are working together with observationalists and modellers across the fields on climate variability and missing processes in our NOC model.

  • Tell us about a skill or trait unique to you that you would like to share?

I like swimming so I try to make use of the pool nearby NOC to go swimming over lunchtime with a colleague.

Stefanie Rynders from National Oceanography Centre

Meet the Team

Aidan Hunter

  • Please introduce yourself.

I’m an ecological modeller working with the Ecosystems team at British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge. After a Masters in mathematics I applied for various environmental research roles, including modelling the fluid dynamics of wind turbine arrays, but eventually landed a marine science PhD in fishery statistics and modelling. This involved researching fishery-induced changes to the growth and maturation of commercially important species and developing a novel fish stock assessment model. My work has since focussed on fish food: plankton, particularly in the polar regions. I’ve developed a range of marine ecology models including an end-to-end ecosystem model, trait-based copepod model, and Lagrangian (particle-tracking) size-structured phytoplankton model. As part of my work with each of these, I devised numerical methods of tuning model parameters to produce statistically optimum fits to multiple data sets – making the models match observed reality. My favourite way of doing this is via Bayesian methods.

  • What do you do within BIOPOLE?

Within BIOPOLE, I’m part of WP2, working to create species distribution models to simulate how polar copepod’s horizontal and vertical distributions respond to environmental conditions. Of particular interest is a natural carbon storage process called the ‘lipid pump’, that is, the vertical transport of carbon during seasonal diapause when copepods overwinter in deep water. My models will simulate present-day vertical carbon transport associated with diapausing copepod species and, with reference to high-resolution climate forecasts courtesy of the PolarRES project, predict changes to the lipid pump under potential future climate storylines. My work so far has involved finding and collating as much polar copepod data as I can and using it to estimate parameters useful for other BIOPOLE modellers. Though a necessary first step, data wrangling isn’t what I most enjoy. I’m really looking forward to getting properly stuck in to the actual modelling, and have been contemplating adopting Bayesian methods for this work.

  • Tell us about a skill or trait unique to you that you would like to share?

I spend (too) much of my free time in summer juggling – six balls on a very good day. If you’re in Cambridge and the weather’s nice we can take some paraffin to the park and throw fire clubs, catching is optional. I also enjoy much merriment in the many fine old pubs Cambridgeshire has to offer.

Aidan Hunter from British Antarctic Survey

Encouraging the Next Generation of Polar Biologists at Big Biology Day

On a sunny Saturday in October, BIOPOLE team member Jen Freer took part in the Big Biology Day at Hills Rd Sixth Form College in Cambridge. Along with others from the British Antarctic Survey, this exciting event provided a wonderful chance to engage with people of all ages, expertise, interests and backgrounds, as well as inspire young people to pursue careers in polar science and exploration.

Hosted by Cambridge Biologists, BBD has grown into one the largest free-to-attend festivals in the UK exclusively dedicated to the biological sciences. The event’s primary focus is to provide an up-close and personal experience with biology and for visitors from all different backgrounds to meet and interact with scientists.

We provided hands-on opportunities for visitors to learn about the incredible biodiversity of marine fauna in the Southern Ocean, from animals adapted to live around hydrothermal vents, to the mighty krill and the copepod crustaceans we are investigating for BIOPOLE. It was also great to share stories of our varied career paths, careers advice, the diverse activities we undertake as polar scientists, and the incredible experiences a career in polar science and operations can give you.

Thank you to the hard-working BAS team who volunteered their time, and to everyone who came out to talk to us. See you next year, Big Biology Day!

The author of the blog – Jen Freer (British Antarctic Survey)