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A glorious week of sunshine, low winds and calm waters have allowed us to ease into island lifestyle, become familiar with camp and start our sampling campaigns. Within three days of being on the island, the AWI zodiac ‘Christine’ was set up and launched into the water, providing us with our vessel for marine research. The marine research group within the expedition team aims to assess the impact of permafrost thawing on the marine microbiota and marine sedimentary transport. More specifically this will involve analyzing the fungal, bacterial, phyto- and zoo-plankton components of the biotic community as well as key chemical and physical parameters of the water such as turbidity and dissolved organic carbon. In order to achieve this, sampling transects have been designed that begin 50 m from the outflow of retrogressive thaw slumps and continue to 2 km offshore, hoping to capture a gradient effect. To accompany these, other transects will also be completed that are positioned away from thaw slumps to provide a comparison.

herschel IMG 4075 on the boat

Cédric Meunier from AWI is pulling the plankton net while maneuvering the boat at the same time.

Our work on land and on the water fulfills major tasks in the workpackages 2 and 4 (Coastal Permafrost, Coastal Waters) of our project as it ties these two spheres together.
Already in the first week, two transects have been completed. The first began at one of the largest slumps of the Arctic, which has recently become more stable and shows a small amount of terrestrial input, and the other from the NE of the island which is characterized by large-scale cliff erosion. The team collected samples and performed in situ measurements, before transporting the material back to the lab for analysis. The initial results look promising and the next few transects have been planned for more highly active slumps and aim to take place in the coming days, although wind speed has begun to increase over the past few hours.

herschel DSC 2275 labwork

Maarten Boersma from AWI sets up the incubation experiment in the brand new lab on Herschel Island.

The land-based fraction of the expedition team has also made their first sampling campaigns of different slumps and are progressing well with their analysis. Next week we will provide some more information on their sampling progress and what they hope to discover, so check back next week!


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