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A bizarre shopping list

When your shopping list includes eight turkey basters, freeze dried algae, 50 plastic sweet jars and about a kilometre of electrical tape, you know there is some creative science stirring!

The colourful and energetic excitement of a pteropod rich sample of live zooplankton.

In less than a week I will join two colleagues from the Naturalis Biodiversty Center, Dr Katja Peijnenburg and her new PhD student Lisette Mekkes, and Dr Erica Goetze, from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa to embark on a research expedition that will span the length of the Atlantic Ocean. This will be the 27th annual Atlantic Meridional Transect, or AMT oceanographic cruise that leaves from the UK each autumn to sample the chemical, physical and biological parameters of the Atlantic Ocean.

This year we are extremely fortunate to join the cruise as it travels from Southampton, UK to the Falkland Islands. Along with 19 other scientists, we will have 45 days to collect samples and conduct experiments on the RRS Discovery, one of the UK’s state-of-the-art scientific research vessels.

Loading our equipment onto the RRS Discovery while it is docked in Amsterdam. Left to right, Debbie Wall-Palmer, Lisette Mekkes, Katja Peijnenburg. Thanks to Willem Renema for the photo.

Our research on board will focus on zooplankton, creatures that drift in the upper ocean. In particular we will be studying the planktonic snails, known as pteropods and heteropods, which have adapted to a life in the upper ocean by forming swimming fins. Our Marine Biodiversity group at Naturalis specialises in research on these beautiful swimming snails and we are quite fanatical about them!

It is rather sobering that these charismatic planktonic snails are amongst the first creatures to be negatively impacted by chemical changes in the ocean, driven by high atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. Our research on the ship will investigate this, helping us to understand whether these unfortunate effects would in fact be useful as indicators of ocean changes.

Shake, shake, shake! Thoroughly cleaning our equipment.

Right now we are deep into our expedition preparations. This involves not only a bizarre shopping list, but also the washing and meticulous packing of all our equipment. There are no shops in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, so we have to think of every eventuality and we cannot forget anything!

Look out for regular updates on the expedition, our experiments and ship board life! We will post regular blogs on the Naturalis website.

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