From now on when we have transit time, I will try to tell you a little bit about a lot of the JCR scientists and crew. I thought it’d be appropriate to start with Eric not only because this is his first time on a ship but also he had seen open water only twice prior to this trip.
DA: Where are you from?
EW: Originally from Winnemucca, Nevada; right now living in Reno, Nevada working towards a master’s degree at the University of Nevada, Reno / Desert Research Institute.
DA: Can you explain the research that brought you on this cruise?
EW: I am interested in measuring the algae living in the ice. By measuring the light above and then below the ice, I can get an idea of what types and potentially how much algae is living in the ice (since they absorb some wavelengths of light, but not all, to photosynthesize). Once I check light below the ice, I take an ice core, cut it in small chunks, put them in buckets, take them to the lab on the ship and process them. I will analyze them later using other methods to determine how much and what types of algae are in the ice, as well as what types of “sunscreen” compounds they are producing to protect themselves from the high UV radiation around Antarctica.
Antarctic sea ice algae are important since krill (shrimp-like animals) spend the winter under the ice, scraping the algae off the ice to survive. Krill is a key organism in the Antarctic food chain – penguins, fish, other birds feed on krill. Since krill rely on sea ice algae, it is important to understand how much algae is in the ice. One thing that affects how much algae is in the ice is the timing of ice formation: if it forms later than usual, then there is less light for algae to grow AND there is less algae in the water to be incorporated into the ice. This would adversely affect the krill population, and in return, everything else that feeds on krill.
DA: So when you go out on the ice, how do you do all this?
EW: I have a custom designed “stick” that has a spectrometer with a fiber-optic cable running through it. I put the stick through the hole we’ve drilled in the ice and pull on a string so the stick takes the shape of an “L,” with the long side of the “L” being aligned with the bottom of the ice. Then the spectrometer sends light data to my laptop. Once this is done, I use a 9-cm diameter corer to extract a big chunk of ice, using a hand saw cut it into smaller pieces, put them in small plastic buckets and take them up to the lab with me.
DA: How has the data collection been going for you?
EW: Well, the very first day on the ice, my “stick” broke. There is a hinge which is its weak point, so I had to come back onboard to repair it. Another problem is that my “stick” is designed for 2-meter thick ice, and we’ve mostly been working on floes 9 meters thick! The snow cover, sometimes reaching 180 cm s is also pretty thick.
DA: Before this trip you had seen open water twice, and this was your first trip onboard a ship. How bad has seasickness affected you?
EW: Every time the ship starts to move after having been moored in for a few days, I feel the motion. It takes me a bit to get used to it, but then it’s allright. I like being on the JCR and definitely like going out on the ice. It has been great to see the wildlife here (penguins especially!) and go up to the monkey island to watch the ship go through the ice and see the icebergs.

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