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Quiescence

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Bivalve veligers (baby clams). The top individual was starved, and the  bottom individual was fed for 48 hr. Photos by Kharis Schrage. Friends, your vocabulary word for the day is "quiescence." It refers to a state of inactivity or dormancy. There are actually several types of dormancy in biology, each with their own physiological definition. Quiescence occurs during unfavorable environmental conditions, and an animal can resume activity after the environmental conditions improve.  So are larvae in the polar night quiescent? I wouldn't blame them if they were. I mean, it's pitch black outside, and there's no food. Why not just go dormant until the spring bloom?  One of the main goals Kharis and I had for this trip is to figure out whether larvae in the polar night are quiescent, patiently waiting until the sun comes back and there's food available. Quiescent larvae wouldn't do much - just kind of drift around. They wouldn't eat, and they certainly woul

Northernmost community

Everywhere around Ny-Ålesund, you will see the phrase "the world's northernmost community." It's true - the research station is the closest you can possibly live to the North Pole year-round. There are some temporary ice camps, and of course ships travel into the central Arctic, but as far as permanent settlements go, Ny-Ålesund is the farthest north.  You could call  Ny-Ålesund the world's northernmost town, settlement, or research station - all of those descriptors would be accurate. But I find "community" to be the most appropriate. Because up here, there's a very strong sense that we rely on one another.  When you go into the mess hall for meals, you sit at whatever table has available seats. If you don't know the person across from you, you introduce yourself. That's happened to me many times. In one case, I struck up a conversation with an Italian researcher who was passionate about invertebrates. She told me about a project she had don

Dark Knight: part 2

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Sorting plankton with Kharis. Photo by Alexa Elliott, Changing Seas/South Florida PBS. Kharis and I sat shoulder to shoulder at the microscopes in our lab. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see her pipet moving back and forth between the dish under her scope and the collection well next to her every few seconds. Back and forth, back and forth - she must have a lot of larvae in her dish. I had plenty myself, actually. One by one, I picked tiny clam after tiny clam from my dish. My eyes wandered to the remainder of the sample, sitting in a tall beaker on the bench between us. It was mostly full. Over a liter and a half to go. How were we ever going to get through it?  When it rains, it pours, right? Larvae are super patchy, so you can catch almost nothing for days on end and then be swarmed with the little buggers. If you just dip your net in the right place in the ocean at the right time, you can end up with more larvae than you ever wanted. That's what happened to us.  We had ta

Polar night research in photos: part 2

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There's a green laser on one of the research buildings that's used to make measurements of different parameters in the atmosphere. It shoots straight up and can be seen from anywhere in town. Photo by Kharis Schrage. Aurora borealis! Photo by Kharis Schrage. This photo was taken with a long exposure, so it's actually lighter than what you see in life. Nevertheless, it's a nice view of the harbor and out across the fjord. Photo by Kharis Schrage. We found this cool scale worm on the dock! Photo by Kharis Schrage. This embryo is pretty big and looks exactly like some that I found in 2020. Photo by Kharis Schrage. This little worm is one of our most common species. So cute! Photo by Kharis Schrage. This embryo is interesting because it looks like a donut. Photo by Kharis Schrage. This little snail larvae is super common. Photo by Kharis Schrage.  This larva will grow up to be an anemone that lives in a tube. Photo by Kharis Schrage. 

Changing Seas

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Every field trip is different. My career so far has included all sorts of field work - 6 weeks on a global-class ship in international waters, short day-trips in state waters , stints at land-based field stations , SCUBA trips , tidepooling , and pretty much everything in between. Each time, I get to know a new team , try new techniques , and flex my skills as a leader . No two field trips are the same. And this one is different from all of them. Sure, I've been to Ny- Ålesund twice before. I've worked in the Arctic  for over 10 years, including during the polar night . I've traveled with my PhD student, Kharis , twice already and am very familiar with her working style. So what makes this trip different? Well, we have a film crew. David Diez films me preserving a sediment sample. Photo by Alexa Elliott, Changing Seas/South Florida PBS. That's right, Kharis and I have been shadowed by a producer and two videographers during part of our trip. They are from the South Flo

CATAIN day

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Checking all the parts of CATAIN in the lab. Photo by Alexa Elliott, Changing Seas/South Florida PBS. Imagine that you are a camera system. You were invented in Woods Hole, Massachusetts by a group of scientists and engineers with a mission to study the ocean. You were designed to photograph settlers , they told you, so they named you CATAIN. They deployed you beneath the pier in Woods Hole for tests, then to collect data over the course of a year. You were submerged in winter , in summer , and alongside other panels for comparison. You dreamed of the day that you would fulfill your true purpose - not recording photos of settlers in Woods Hole where the scientists could check on you, but truly going where no settlement study has gone before. You yearned to see the remote environments you were designed for. You strove to earn the trust of your inventors so they would someday send you off on a solo mission. Where would you imagine going? Somewhere offshore, a polar environment, the de

Dog and turtle

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Our dirty sieving station - this process involves a lot of mud and even more muddy water. "Kharis, what are your two favorite words?" I asked. "Dog and turtle," she responded right away.  I looked at her quizzically. She looked back at me, even more confused. I showed her the empty white bucket I was holding.  "Oh, empty bucket!" Kharis laughed as she realized what I had really asked. I was trying to tell her we had finished another sample, but she had given me an off-the-cuff honest answer instead. To be fair, I had been throwing seemingly random questions at her over the last hour or so. "Where were you in 2010?" "What would you rather be doing at 12:45 in the morning?" These were my attempts to keep conversation flowing as we worked side-by-side for hours. I suppose a question about her favorite words would not have been out of order. If you can't tell by now, it was late, and we were getting loopy.  The past two days have had pe