Time series

It's hard to believe I've already been home from Palau for three weeks. The first week was lost to sleep - ask my husband, I was a lump. The second week was mostly paperwork and digging myself out from under the mountain of things that had accumulated while I was away. And now, here we are. 

It is definitely summer. Woods Hole is full of tourists, and all the visiting scientists at the Marine Biological Laboratory down the street from WHOI are noticeable around town with their signature teal lanyards. WHOI has its own summer crowd too, although they're not quite so numerous or conspicuous. I actually have a summer student of my own this year, named Kimberly. She's a Cell and Molecular Biology major at the City University of New York, and she's been wonderful to work with so far. 

Kimberly's project is an investigation of temporal patterns in an Arctic deep-sea community. She's actually continuing a project that I worked on back when I lived in Germany 10 years ago. The Arctic is rapidly warming, even more so than other world regions, because of the strong influence of warm water flowing northward out of the Atlantic and a feedback loop with melting sea ice. [If you're not sure what I'm talking about, it works like this: warming temperatures melt ice, so the underlying water is exposed. Water is darker than ice and absorbs more light, which also means it absorbs more heat, which then melts more ice, which exposes more water and on and on. This cycle is known as Arctic Amplification.] 

Our job as scientists is to figure out how that warming trend is affecting the animals that live on the seafloor. Thanks to my German collaborators at the Alfred Wegener Institute, we have photos of the seafloor along the same transect at the same station over the last two decades. Some of you might remember that I analyzed imagery from 2002, 2007, and 2012 when I lived in Germany (find the paper here). Now, Kimberly is extending that time series to include photos from more recent years - 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2021 - depending on how many images she can get through in one summer. 

I am extremely curious to see how the analysis is going to turn out! Back when I did my analysis, we found that an increase in food supply to the seafloor drove an increase in the abundance of animals, especially those that relied on organic matter in the sediment for food. Kimberly's analysis should show whether this trend has continued, or whether the abundance has gone back down, suggesting a cycle. I'm really excited to see what she finds, and it is a pleasure to have her in the lab this summer!

One of the images from Kimberly's station. You can see the brittle stars (Ophiocten gracilis - those little star-shaped things) and tube worms (Jasminiera schaudinni - thin brown tubes) that are so common. And check out that ray (Amblyraja hyperborea)! Photo by Melanie Bergmann.