Researchers aboard the Australian research vessel Investigator, operated by the Marine National Facility, departed Hobart for the Sabrina Coast, East Antarctica on 14 January to explore the continental slope of this little known region. The voyage is a multidisciplinary programme comprised of geologists, geochemists, geophysicists and biologists with 22 scientists aboard from universities and research institutes in Australia, Italy, USA and Spain.
Microbiologists on board, Linda Armbrecht and Amaranta Focardi from Macquarie University, Sydney, are investigating phytoplankton, bacteria and virus populations from surface water samples and plankton tows, they are culturing organisms to conduct single-cell genomics on each species, and analysing ancient DNA from phytoplankton in sediment cores as a new way of determining which species thrived or didn’t thrive during past climate shifts. Alix Post, from Geoscience Australia, is using a deep-tow camera to characterise the seafloor environments and community composition at depths <2000 m. Multibeam bathymetry is being used to target communities in a range of seafloor environments, particularly within and adjacent to slope canyons, to understand how these changes in morphology may influence benthic community composition. Understanding the surface and seafloor communities, and their resilience to past changes, will help us to better manage and protect these organisms into the future.
For further information and to follow the survey go to the Sabrina Seafloor Survey website.