Text and photos: Danielle Grant and Kristine Steinsland, NORCE Climate
Danielle and Kristine here! We are two PhD students from NORCE Climate, based in Bergen.
Our research is part of the larger project, AGENSI: A Genetic View into Past Sea Ice Variability in the Arctic. The Arctic is drastically changing and there may soon be summer without sea ice. However, the impacts of a warming Arctic on regional and global climate systems are not well understood. We can use knowledge of past sea ice variability to understand the role of sea ice on Arctic climate, and learn more about our current situation. To do this we do sea ice reconstructions based on observational data (satellite and historical records) and sea ice proxies.
Our main goal on board is to collect surface sediment samples from multicores—which we will analyze back in Bergen for environmental DNA, IP25 biomarker, and palynology. Environmental DNA is an emerging tool for sea ice reconstructions, spearheaded by the AGENSI group. As we build confidence in this new proxy the surface samples collected during this cruise will contribute to a surface sediment database. The database will provide a calibration for our suite of proxies, which can then be applied for paleo-reconstructions of sea ice (hopefully on a core ranging back 150,000 years from this cruise)!
After 20 days onboard we have collected 32 multicores ranging from 100m depth to 2500 m. When we process a core, we first clean away the mud, and then wash with a chlorine solution (This is the first of many cleaning steps!) The core is then delivered to the molecular lab to one of us already dressed in a paper suit, hairnet, particle mask, safety glasses and double gloves! The core is then immediately cleaned with chlorine… again…twice. These cleaning steps are critical to ensure no DNA contamination! Always be afraid of DNA contamination!
Once things are clean, we can then take our surface samples using sterile instruments. Sampling the surface of a multicore is quite exciting! The MC preserves the sediment-water interface, meaning that you get an intact slice of the sea floor. So far, we have encountered plenty of tube worms, burrowing worms, and even a lively starfish!
For some locations we also do a full downcore sampling, meaning we sample every 2cm of a split core. We like to think of this as ‘sediment surgery’—we have another designated clean lab exclusively for DNA downcore samples. The different levels of clean would not be possible without being on board KPH, it is a great luxury to have such control on the lab space and really limit any chance of contamination.
When we aren’t sampling (or cleaning), we can usually be found in the mess room (the juice on board is amazing) or on the observation deck with coffee! The coffee may be just as important as all the cleaning for our success!
The last few days have been exciting and busy with a lot of coring sites. We were slow to realize just how dark things have gotten outside! As things get darker and colder, we plan to visit the ship’s sauna we hear so such wonderful things about! Until then, happy cleaning and stay cool… like sea ice!