Investigator transit to give IMAS students a taste of science research at sea

(Scroll down to see voyage blogs)

Twenty-five IMAS students will get a unique taste of scientific research when they sail from Hobart to Brisbane over the coming week on the Marine National Facility research vessel Investigator.

The students will study the physical, chemical and biological oceanography of the East Australian Current (EAC) as Investigator makes an eight day transit voyage to Brisbane to prepare for its next research voyage. (Investigator image: Owen Foley)

The voyage’s Chief Scientist, IMAS Associate Professor Zanna Chase, said the students would collect and analyse water samples, phytoplankton and zooplankton during group research projects as part of their Marine and Antarctic Science degrees.

“One of IMAS’s strengths as a teaching and research institute is our proximity to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean, and the unique experiences that we can offer students and researchers as a result,” Associate Professor Chase said.

Staff & students on Investigator“This voyage is a great example of the world-class education that we provide, which is a key attraction for both local and overseas students, and also illustrates the valuable resource the Marine National Facility offers for marine science training.

(Photo, left, Chief Scientist Zanna Chase, front row 2nd from left, with staff and students on board Investigator)

“During the transit the students will collect samples that will help them to understand the processes in the East Australian Current that drive the production and distribution of phytoplankton, which form the base of the ocean’s food chain.

“The EAC is a major influence on the climate of eastern Australia and an important factor in the warming waters that we are experiencing in the Tasman Sea as a result of climate change, so the transit will also give the students a hands-on experience of a significant oceanographic feature.”

Zanna with students Sulla Wang, Michael Zian, Coulson WuAssociate Professor Chase said a number of international students from China would join the transit as part of IMAS’s innovative collaboration with the highly regarded Ocean University of China (OUC) in Qingdao, which includes a joint undergraduate degree that allows students to split their studies between the two universities.

(Photo, left, A/Prof Chase with OUC/IMAS students Sulla Wang, Michael Zian & Coulson Wu)

“IMAS staff have been travelling to OUC since mid-2015 to help teach Chinese students enrolled in the Bachelor’s degree course (with embedded Honours), who then have the option of completing their four-year course in Tasmania.

"OUC has more than 45 000 students and is a major centre for oceanography and fisheries science in China, having taught 70 per cent of the country's PhD graduates in those disciplines.

“Offering both local and OUC students an experience of the kind they will get over the next week can only strengthen the University of Tasmania’s reputation and the State’s role as a centre for teaching and research excellence,” Associate Professor Chase said.

Voyage Blogs

Day 9, 13 April 2018 - Chloe Power

Chloe with CTDMy name is Chloe Power, I am 24 years old and I love the ocean! I am currently in the middle of the coursework component of the Master of Marine and Antarctic Science through IMAS – and absolutely loving it!

The current subject I am studying, ‘Oceanographic Methods’ involved a 10 day training voyage aboard CSIRO’s research vessel, the RV Investigator, Australia’s only blue-water research ship dedicated to marine research in Australia's vast ocean territories. So along with 24 other UTAS students, I am extremely lucky!

Ten days ago, we set sail from Hobart and started our journey up the east coast of Australia. The primary aim of our voyage was to look at the physical, biological and chemical gradients associated with the East Australian Current (EAC) and its accompanying cold and warm core eddy systems. In basic terms, eddies are circular currents that pinch off in sections of the EAC, and they can be cold core systems (flowing clockwise) and warm core systems (flowing anti clockwise). Eddies are pretty important, as they can transport material such as nutrients and larvae.

To help achieve the primary aims of our voyage, our class was sorted into four projects: nutrients (lead by A/Prof Zanna Chase), zooplankton (A/Prof Patti Virtue), bio-optics (Dr Christina Schallenburg) and physical dynamics (Dr Helen Phillips). My science background and skills belong in the biology and ecology realm, for it has always been living things that captured my interest. However, for this voyage, I dived into the deep end (literally!) and looked more at the physical and chemical oceanographic side of things. This encompassed a wide variety of new concepts to learn, new instruments to work with and new technologies to understand.

SunsetMy new favourite instrument is the CTD (pictured, above right, Chloe with the CTD). The CTD stands for conductivity, temperature, and depth, which although are some pretty cool parameters for an instrument to detect, it does so much more than that! Also attached to the instrument are 36 water samplers (Niskin bottles), which head down into the ocean (in our case 1.5 km deep) and collect water at different depths in the eddies!  Our team sampled cold and warm core eddies for dissolved oxygen, nutrients and salinity (we even let the bio optics team sample some chlorophyll ). Our teams combined conducted a total of 21 CTD deployments! It was a lot of sampling, a lot of recording, and a lot of fun! I can happily say that the class of Oceanographic Methods 2018 are well on their way to becoming CTD experts!

But what are we to do with all this cool data? Well, back to the primary aim of our voyage- to look closely at these warm and cold eddy systems of course! How they differ, how they compare, and how they influence life in the sea. As a biologist, learning about the physical and chemical parameters of these eddies really helped put things into the bigger picture. The systems of the ocean are so connected!

After all the groups discussed some of our preliminary results, we discovered that some nutrients may limit phytoplankton growth, some zooplankton species were only found in certain eddies, high temperatures and salinities were found in the centre of a warm core eddy, velocity strength is strongest at eddy boundaries (and decreases at depths and centre) and chlorophyll maximum was high in cold core eddies. Now to put on our thinking caps and see if we can piece together some of the ‘Eddy Puzzle!’

Team photoWe are soon to be approaching our final ‘waypoint’ – our final destination being Brisbane, and on my final day aboard this amazing vessel I have found myself reflecting on what an incredible experience this has been. From hands on practical work, to listening to stories about life at sea from the ships’ crew, to manning some operating systems, to BBQ dinners on the bridge, life as a science student really is rewarding. Life at sea has been an adventure to say the least, and life aboard the RV Investigator has been nothing short of incredible.  It has been an amazing opportunity for myself and the 24 other students (pictured, right) to gain vital practical experience and scientific skills, and we are all so grateful to be participants on this voyage. I think I can speak on everyone’s behalf, that we are extremely thankful for all the wonderful support staff from MNF, ASP and CSIRO as well as our chief scientist and course coordinator, A/Prof Zanna Chase and the amazing Dr Christina Schallenberg, Dr Helen Phillips and A/Prof Patti Virtue for their invaluable support and expertise.

To me, science is the best thing in life. A wave will break, a current will flow, planktonic larvae will transform into a fish, all without the hands of humans. To me, science is the closest thing we have to magic. And some curious humans, called scientists, just like to measure it.

Day 9, 13 April 2018 - Zelin Zhang

Presentation prepI am Zelin Zhang, a student now studying Marine and Antarctic Science at UTAS and IMAS. I was looking forward to participating in this voyage. Because this is my first long voyage. In this voyage, I would become a member of the physical oceanography group to work under the guidance of tutor Helen.

In the past several days, I have learnt a lot and gained an unforgettable experience. These will become valuable in my life. But the happy times are always so short. Today is the last day of the voyage, the Investigator is sailing to Brisbane. The main assignment of measuring data has been done, so today is relaxed. We only have presentations at noon.

In the presentation (pictured, right, preparation for the presentation), two groups had clear and complete introductions to their work results. In addition, they also answered some questions well. The work of first group is sampling at different depths and calculating the chlorophyll concentration. After processing data, the distribution of chlorophyll around eddies is shown. The work of the second group is about zooplankton. They collect zooplankton by bongo net and neuston net. They showed the species of zooplankton and distribution around eddies. The zooplankton gathers around the cold core eddies, because of the upwelling.

In the afternoon, students went back to their room to rest and pack. Because we will go off the Investigator tomorrow morning. Before leaving, we took photos with our tutors. Through these day, we had precious memories. All the good times are retained in this picture. In the evening, the ship has arrived at the port of Brisbane. The ship was calm and looked peaceful in the orange lights of port. We gathered in the lounge and enjoyed a good time on the last night (Pictured, below).Last night

Day 9, 13 April 2018 - Ziyan Zhang (Bess) 

With the final CTD coming on board, our voyage is coming to the end. However, there are lots of pleasant memories during these days that stay in my mind.

KrillYesterday, our group tutor Patti gave her presentation about our group project theme which is zooplankton. She talked about the definition, category, and distribution of them. Most of them we have seen and counted during these days. The presentation of Patti is attracting and fantastic, and the part about krill inspired me the most.

The theme of my final essay last semester was krill. From Patti’s presentation, we learned that krill is the base of the food web and play an essential role in the ecosystem. What’s more, there is a competitive relationship between krill and salps. When salps are abundant, the amount of krill is decreased. An interesting thing is that the salmon will be gray if there is no krill anymore, because krill has orange fat which is a kind of natural pigment. As the base of the food web, krill is the major food source of salmon, that’s why salmon in a beautiful orange color (pictured, right, krill under the microscope).

Ship's bowAs we are crossing the Eddy 5 which is a huge warm core eddy, the ship almost swings all the way, and the waves become much more extensive. This picture (left) is captured by Helen, it shows us the previous second before these students got wet. 

As the final day with CTD tasks, I tried something new and different. I volunteered to work with Helen’s group and help them collect water sample from each Niskin bottle. There are different labels on the bottle, and different numbers mean seawater that was obtained from different depths with different salinity, density, temperature, and nutrients. The task is really simple, but we need patience and prudence for there are approximately forty samples for us to collect and each sample needs to be washed three times. Only in that case we can get the accurate data from seawater and do the further analysis.

From my perspective, the biggest event for today is the BBQ dinner on the bridge. After seven days of doing our own things in the different projects, it is a good time for us to let it go and get together to celebrate and relax. Due to our diverse working time shift, I haven’t seen some of my classmates for a long time. In this dinner, we chat a lot about the exciting things that we have experienced these days.

Day 9, 13 April 2018 - Xiao Chen (Aaron)

Hi! My name is Xiao Chen (Aaron). I am now studying Marine and Antarctic Science at UTAS and IMAS. I am eager to engage in oceanographic research in the future, so I was so excited when I heard that I would have an opportunity to be a member of a group of twenty-five on a voyage. This voyage on the RV Investigator will arrive in Brisbane tomorrow, which means we will soon finish this unforgettable voyage experience. As a member of the physical oceanography team, my tutor Helen has taught me many methods to deal with oceanic data using MATLAB in the last eight days and I have also learned about many oceanographic instruments including CTD, Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler, Triaxus and so on from other enthusiastic crew.Bridge BBQ

Yesterday, after finishing the last CTD task, we held a BBQ on the bridge (pictured, right) to celebrate the success of marine research. It also was a good chance for different study groups or different working time shifts to stay together. Although the ship always swung with the impact of big waves during the BBQ, all participants were so happy to share their interesting experiences and some people even wiggled their bodies with the shaking of the ship. After working hard with many rewards, I do not know how to describe the excited mood at that time.

CTD & ARGO dataAfter finishing all data collection tasks, the next main work for each group is processing the data and doing a presentation to share results with other groups. Therefore, my group and the nutrient group will present scientific highlights this afternoon.

In the morning, our group worked together in order to prepare our presentation. My task is to organize CTD data and Argo data about temperature and salinity. Then I plot figures using MATLAB to show the difference between CTD data and average Argo data with the change of pressure (depth). The table (pictured, left) only shows the difference between CTD station 2 and Argo in temperature. With the help of Helen and my group members, I finished all 21 CTD station data for temperature and salinity and created two animation graphics.Research debrief

In the afternoon, all students and tutors get together in the lounge room. It is time for the presentation (pictured, right). The first right picture shows the presentation of our group. We introduced eddies using data collected about three aspects: life time path, heat and salinity gradients and vertical structure. The second right picture shows the presentation of the nutrient group. Firstly, they introduced the change of a variety of nutrients including Nitrate, Silicate, Phosphate, fluorescence and so on along the trajectory of all CTD stations. Then they talked about the change of nutrients with the increase of depth in each CTD station. Finally, they introduce briefly Apparent Oxygen Utilisation (AOU) and Redfield Ratio. After the presentations, we all have a deeper understanding of another group’s work.

This voyage is so valuable and will be a precious memory for me. It is a good experience to work with patient tutors, enthusiastic crew and other hard-working students.

Day 9, 13 April 2018 - Matt Corkhill

Hi! My name is Matt Corkill. I’m in my third year of a bachelor of Marine and Antarctic Science at the University of Tasmania (UTAS), majoring in marine biology.

I love the ocean, be it liquid or frozen (especially frozen though, sea ice is very cool!). I was lucky enough to be given a berth on the RV Investigator alongside 24 other students from UTAS. We’re transiting from Hobart to Brisbane through some eddies for a course called Oceanographic Methods. This course is going to improve my understanding of things to look for in the ocean and how to measure them. It’s all being coordinated by the chief scientist onboard A/Prof Zanna Chase. I’m working what I like to call the ‘breakfast shift’, from 2am to 2pm, where you get sunrise and four meals a day.Sail drone

Just out of port we caught up with three sail drones (pictured). They were sailing around a buoy near Maria Island and waiting for us to come and collect some underway water samples (pumped up from beneath the ship) to calibrate them before they set off for some remote part of the Pacific Ocean. These things are really clever! They measure a whole bunch of parameters, including some of the carbonate system (this system controls the pH in the ocean as well as whether or not carbon dioxide gas dissolves in or evolves from seawater).

As we were steaming off to our first eddy we were overtaken by a massive pod of dolphins! That was the last of the swimming macrofauna we have seen up until this point… excepting a tiny little box-like fish that our zooplankton sampling team found. I managed to take lots of photos of dolphin rear-ends, and one photo with heads in itDolphin.

So, onto the eddy sampling! I’m on the team looking at the concentrations of nitrate, silicate, and phosphate (key nutrients) as well as the waste products nitrite and ammonia. We’re also going to look at some oxygen and carbon data, but we haven’t gotten to that yet. The suite of nutrient measurements can tell us which of them is limiting phytoplankton growth or if conditions are indeed limiting. We’re expecting to see higher nutrient levels in eddies that bring water up from the deep. We might see higher waste products if those nutrients have made things grow that have then been eaten and turned into biomass plus waste (waste products don’t hang around forever, they get transformed by the nitrogen cycle).

CTD latch mechanismCollecting the samples is really interesting! We can collect underway seawater from the same system that we took the sail drone carbon samples from AND we can deploy a conductivity temperature and depth rosette (CTD). The CTD holds 36 12L Niskin bottles which are held open by lanyards attached to a latch which can be opened remotely. The CTD also has sensors for its namesakes as well as a lot more such as a transmissometer, which has a fantastic name and fundamentally measures light transmission through the water (attenuated by particles like plankton). This all means that the CTD can be lowered down (kilometres underwater is possible but we’re only going to 500 or 1500 m) to take some measurements of seawater properties which are fed back to a control room on the ship, live! Scientists (us in this case) can monitor these ‘traces’, pick any depth they want, and close a bottle there with the click of a mouse. This offers an amazing capacity to measure parameters beyond the capability of the already extensive onboard-CTD sensors, for instance, nutrients and waste products! So as well as getting this fantastic picture of surface nutrients over the voyage track we can see depth profiles through eddies and look at things like the upwelling of nutrients, activity of the nitrogen cycle, and much much more.

(Pictured, above right, part of the CTD, latch mechanism in the centre with lanyards running out to bottles which have been cocked open. Little white balls are floats so that when a bottle ‘fires’ (closes) the lanyard floats up and doesn’t interfere with the other bottles. Note light coming from bottom of bottle which is also cocked open, attached to same lanyard as top. Image Matt Corkill).

This, of course, is all only possible because of the amazing crew and support staff onboard the RV Investigator as well as Zanna (nutrients) and the other awesome teaching staff: Dr Christina Schallenberg (bio-optics), Dr Helen Phillips (physical oceanography), and A/Prof Pattie Virtue (zooplankton). It’s been great to work with all of the other students, I know we’ve all learnt a great deal! I hope that other students get this opportunity in the future as it’s just so valuable! Thanks for reading

Day 8, 12 April 2018 - Zhichun Liu

I’m Zhichun Liu, and you can call me Meg. I have finished my first two years of my bachelor’s degree in China, and Foodnow I’m in my third year of a Bachelor of Marine and Antarctic science in IMAS. Before this voyage, I have little specific knowledge about biology. Thanks to this voyage, I have a chance to learn about zooplankton and microplastics under Patti Virtue.

This is the first time that I spend such a long time on a ship, and I have never been so far away from the land. Everything is fancy for me! The excellent cabin, tasty food (Pictured!) and perfect labs are beyond my imagination. This unique voyage shows me the life in the research vessel, and even the 2am shift work time can make me excited. The experience of close contact with microscope, CTD and Triaxus helps me understand the contents in the lecture much easier.

Before I introduce my life on the ship, I think you need some background. We always get the zooplankton sample by Neuston net and Bongo net when we go through the eddies. The Neuston is used to get the surface sample and the Bongo is towed at 75m depth. In each net, there is a flowmeter which can record the water volume that passes through the net. Then, we count the number of zooplankton and calculate the biomass. Another important thing we Zooplankton under microscopeneed to do is using a bucket and seawater line to get the surface and underway seawater sample, where microplastic is abundant. Microplastics are small plastic particles and we can only see them under the microscope. They come from clothing, cosmetics, industrial processes and so on. We also count how much microplastic there is in each sample.

Yesterday, I went to the lab at 2 am. My group members had already split the zooplankton sample into the containers. Then, we started counting each species under the microscope. Some small things were still alive. If you observe carefully, you can find they are moving or taking food (Pictured, left, zooplankton).

After the counting, we calculated the biomass and saved the data onto the network share. Then, we arrived at the next station of eddy 5, which means we need to put the bucket and Bongo net into the water. Because of the heavy wind, the Neuston net was cancelled. First, we put the bucket andHeading for Brisbane got the seawater line microplastic sample. Then, the Bongo net was put into the water after CTD came back. Waiting for about 15 minutes, the net was pulled back and we got the zooplankton sample. We took the sample to the lab and filtered it to get the weight of the sample. Then, we repeated the process: splitting, counting, calculating and recording. After lunch, we had finished all the CTDs, buckets and nets.

A busy day ended with a BBQ dinner. Looking at the data, I feel a sense of achievement. What’s more, thanks to other groups members, I have learned how to get samples from the CTD and how it works. There are still two days left, I’d like to learn more things without wasting this chance.

Day 8, 12 April 2018 - Brett Kitchener

As the token undergraduate geology student on the voyage I feel it is incumbent on me to discuss the geophysics equipment on board and the data that is able to be collected by the RV Investigator (pictured, right, Brett Kitchener in the Operations Room).

Brett in ops roomThe RV Investigator is a marine research vessel which has the capacity to provide a real interdisciplinary approach to marine science.  The vessel has a wide variety of physical oceanographic instruments and excellent marine biology labs. It also has a suite of geophysical equipment to provide real time and continuous bathymetric data about the sea floor, shallow penetration seismic for what’s under the sea floor and continuous gravity data.  With the right skills all these sciences can be brought to bear to answer problems and solve mysteries of the marine environment.

The main purpose of the voyage is to provide training in the physical, chemical and biogeochemical gradients in the East Australian Current.  So the first days of the voyage have been occupied with learning the hands-on practicalities of physical oceanographic and marine biological data collection methods.  Lots of this has, by necessity, been “water” science i.e. nutrients and carbon, chlorophyll, salinity and temperature at varying depths in the ocean.  We have all had a hand at collecting the various data.  But at the beginning and end of my shift - and many times in between - I make a bee-line for the geophysics screens to check out the high resolution images of the sea floor and the potential stratigraphy in the sediments produced by the sub bottom profiler.

The ship has a couple of multi beam sonar systems which are used to produce 3D images of the seafloor in great detail.  The EM710 Multi-beam sonar uses high frequency (40-100khz).  It is really good in shallow water, potentially as deep as 2800m but more realistically it is used for water depths to about 600m - that area close to the coast and out over the continental shelf.  This system can map a “Swath” about 30kms wide which extends out either side of the ship as it travels along.  The second system is an EM122 Multi-beam sonar.  It uses lower low frequency (12 kHz).  It is much better for deep water down to a maximum of 11000m.  The “Swath” width is about 30km.

In order to produce a profile of the stratigraphy of the sediments below the ship, the sub-bottom profiler transmits sound energy towards the seabed.  This sound is reflected back by the sea floor but some penetrates into the seabed up to 40 metres or so.  This sound energy is also reflected back by sub surface layers in the sediments in the seabed.  Software on board the ship amplifies the signal, interprets and analyses the signal and displays it in real time.

Gravity machineThe gravity instrument on the ship, a Microg LaCoste Air-Sea Gravity System II (pictured, left), is extremely sensitive and has been installed in such a way as to minimize the effects of the movement of the ship.  The results are that it can detect when the ship is moving over one of the eddies being studied by the slight change in gravity caused by the ship floating on water that has been slightly raised or lowered by the eddy.

At times the results of all this geophysical data can be stunning.  Other times, when the ship is out over the deep ocean there is really nothing to see on the ocean floor.  I am looking forward to day 13 when we are expected to cross an area off shore from Mount Warning - an ancient and extinct volcano.  It should be a real treat to see the effects this geological feature has had on the nearby seabed.

The nice thing about this data is that it can be combined with data collected on previous voyages - particularly the bathymetry data.  I expect to combine this and previous data over the coming months to try and make a story that explains the sedimentary layers - the  stratigraphy - we observed and how it might be different from the normalsediments along the continental slope due to the presence of volcanic ash and pumice eroded from the Mount Warning caldera.

No doubt the data we collect will be added to the existing store of knowledge and made available for other researchers to guide them in their exploration of these waters.  It has been a great privilege to apply my previous marine geology studies to this brand new data and be able to say “I - think - I know what’s going on here”.

Day 7, 11 April 2018 - Philip Butterworth

Investigator messMy name is Philip Butterworth, I’m in the second year of the Master of Marine and Antarctic Science with IMAS. Originally from the UK, I’m a mature student with a background in environmental and clinical microbiology. I joined this voyage aboard Australia’s only blue‐water research vessel to broaden my horizons both literally and figuratively. It’s an exciting opportunity for me to live and work with experienced marine scientists and students from around the world, acquire and practice new skills, and expand my knowledge of the science of our oceans. I was intrigued to experience what life aboard a scientific research vessel on a working mission would really be like. So, for those of you who have ever wondered the same thing, let me try to describe a “typical” day of life at sea on the RV Investigator. The alarm rings at 10am and I get ready to start my 12‐hour shift. Over breakfast in the mess (pictured - the onboard chefs cook up a storm, which is great for maintaining energy levels and morale on the long shifts) I check out the ship’s intranet pages for the latest operational and scientific updates.

Following this is a lecture delivered by one of the lead scientists on board. Being a microbiologist the topic today is especially interesting to me as it concerns phytoplankton. These microscopic marine algae form the basis of marine food webs essentially supporting all other life in the world’s oceans. Not only that, they play a crucial role in biogeochemical cycles, particularly the global carbon cycle, as well as producing approximately 50% of the oxygen that we breathe. Immediately after our lecture there is a handover briefing from the previous shift before they stand down, and then my watch begins at 2pm. While at sea the ship is operational 24‐7, so the science never stops.

CTD deploymentToday we’re scheduled to sample in four different areas; check out this link to see where we are and what we’re doing in near real time: It’s going to be a busy day in a series of busy days. We’re here to learn so busy is great. All the students on board realise that this is a rare opportunity to get firsthand experience, we’re all fortunate to be here and we’re all conscious that we need to suck the marrow out of this experience.

Although I’ve gained exposure to a range of sampling instruments on this voyage my favourite piece of kit, and the one we’ll be using extensively today, is the CTD (pictured, above left and right). CTDThe CTD on the RV investigator has a dual role, it collects water samples and records data, through a suit of sensors, concerning three key physical properties: conductivity, temperature and depth (hence CTD for short). Also attached are instruments to measure chlorophyll fluorescence and transmissivity (turbidity) which help give us an idea of the concentration of phytoplankton throughout the water column. The water collection tubes, called Niskin bottles, are arranged around the core in what is called a rosette. The CTD we are using is rated to collect samples from depths of up to 6.8 kilometres, however, on our sampling runs we’ll descend to a mere 1.5 kilometres.

As the CTD is deployed we gather in the operations room to observe a wealth of real time data as it descends through the water column. These readings help us to decide where the best places are to sample as the CTD makes its return to the surface. With the CTD and other sampling devices back on deck the multidisciplinary science team (consisting of physical and chemical oceanographers and marine biologist) busy themselves with processing the freshly collected samples as the ship’s crew ready the vessel to “steam” to the next sampling location. Even while underway we are constantly collecting information about our oceans and atmosphere with the aid of an array of high tech instruments mounted on and underneath the ship.

At 1.30am we perform a handover briefing with the next shift, and then it’s time for a little R&R before bedtime. Everybody has heard the expression that we know more about the surface of the moon than about the ocean depths. It wasn’t until I spent a few days on this research voyage that I really started to appreciate how true that is. We have learned a great deal but there is so much more to explore and understand. What an exciting and important time to be involved in marine science.

Day 7, 11 April 2018 - Weiyan Zhang

Newston netMy name is Weiyan ZHANG, a student of 2+2 program between UTAS and OUC. I have already finished two years’ study in Ocean University of China and will spend another two years in Hobart. I am studying Marine and Antarctic Science at the University of Tasmania. This semester I got a chance to join a voyage group from Hobart to Brisbane. It is a really different experience for me.

Today is April 11, I have been on board for several days. At first, it was a hard time, because most of us got sea sickness. We were nauseated and wanted to vomit. But things are different now. It seems that we get used to the shaky ship and put our heart and soul into our research.

Our group subject is about zooplankton and microplastic. Coincidently, in our group, all the groupmates are from China. There are two daily jobs, one is putting nets to get zooplankton (pictured, above, Neuston net for surface zooplankton), the other is filtering microplastic from seawater with filter apparatus. Always, we get microplastic samples while the CTD is in the water, but get zooplankton after the CTD is taken in CTD room.Baby octopus

Today, Alexandra came and helped us. She went to the front of the ship with Jihong HU for microplastic sample 1 from surface seawater and then they went to undersea seawater room to get microplastic sample 2. Then we waited in the wet lab till the CTD is out of the water, meanwhile, we make the microplastics out of the filter apparatus and keep them in two different containers.

After that, my groupmates went to the back deck and deployed the nets for neuston and bongo. At that time, I was helping other groups do the sample collection in CTD room.

After that, I came back to the wet lab and counted different zooplankton species with my groupmates. The amounts of zooplankton after eddy3 are less than before, but the number of pteropoda is increasing. Also, there is always something new in the nets (pictured: left, a baby octopus; below right, larvae).Larvae

In the early morning, people who are on shift had a meeting about our new plan. We were going back to the last station. In the morning, 4 CTDs were put in the water at different stations, some people who has already done their job also went to the CTD room to help.

This afternoon, there was a science meeting on zooplankton by Patti. She introduced us about the kinds of zooplanktons, the water layer where most biological activity takes place, and the Antarctic krill. There were some pictures and video which is about her voyage to Antarctic and the krill there.

Today is busy but much more relaxed than yesterday. The most things we did is to help other groups, because we did not need to put nets while crossing previous stations. But I learned more things by helping other groups.

Day 7, 11 April 2018 - Alexandra Parrott

My name is Alexandra Parrott and I am a Masters student studying Marine and Antarctic Science through the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania. I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of this voyage! This whole experience is new to me as I’ve never been this far out to sea before, so I’ve been learning new things every day! But what am I actually doing here? Well, to start off you’ll need a little bit of background. I’m currently doing a unit called Oceanographic Methods under Zanna Chase, which is basically the study of the oceans chemical, biological, geological and physical features and how we can test these.

Now, as to what I’m doing on this ship: I’m learning how to collect data at sea. Until now we’ve had most, if not all, our oceanographic data handed to us on a silver platter post-processing; but this time it’s all hands on deck, literally. During this trip we’ve been looking at the biogeochemical gradients found in two types of eddies of the East Australian Current; cold core and warm core. My research group in particular is looking at nutrient and carbon distribution across eddies using CTD, Triaxus (which we do not take physical samples from), and underway data – part of this process involves handing our samples over to the hydrochemistry lab for analysis which I will be talking about in a moment.Kendall & Mark

Once we got used to sleeping in odd shifts, we had plenty of work on the ship to keep us occupied (most of the time at least). Apart from sleeping, eating a number of delicious meals each day and the occasional science meeting, we’re mostly focused on collecting and processing data.

Now, as I said earlier, once we’ve collected our samples we pass them over to the hydrochemists: Kendall and Mark (pictured, right). In the lab, they analyse three types of samples for us: salt, nutrient, and dissolved oxygen.

Samples from underwater labAs I have a limited amount of space in this blog, I’ll be focusing on nutrients. We have two options when it comes to taking nutrient data; we can either take samples from the CTD which will give us a depth profile, or from the underway lab which gives us direct access to seawater while on the move. We’ve been sampling both.

Mark and Kendall use a method called colorimetric analysis to test the nutrient content of our samples. All five nutrients that we’re testing (nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, phosphate, and silica) can be sampled from one (10ml or 30ml depending on where we take it from) sample as only 6ml in total is required for analysis.

The samples are mixed with specific reagents in order to take accurate measurements. For example: Nitrate, after being reduced to nitrite, is coupled with N-(1-Naphthyl)-ethylenediamine dihydrochloride (or simply NEDD) to form a coloured azo dye which is then measured with a spectrophotometer.

AA3 Auto AnalyserSamples taken by the ‘AA-3’ (SEAL Auto Analyser 3 HR: pictured right) are all run though a glass tubing system. Part of this system includes a series of loop-de-loops (professionally known as mixing coils - pictured below left) that help mix the sample with their reagents before being run through the spectrophotometer; the more intense the colour, the higher the content. While some are a little more complicated than others, all nutrient samples basically run through the same process.  

AA3 chemistry moduleWhile the analysis of all our samples (up to 30 at once) can take a while, around 50% of the AA-3’s runtime is dedicated to quality control; not only are there air bubbles (aliquots) between each sample, a drift check is run through the system around every 20 takes or so to monitor any sensitivity drift. While nothing can be done about a drift at the time, they monitor the percentage drift and what line it came from then adjust the final analysis to exclude any drift.    

Our data is looking great so far and, while there’s still plenty more data to collect, we’ve already learned so much about these eddies. All in all, I’m having the time of my life and I’m looking forward to learning even more during these last few days of the trip.

Day 6, 10 April 2018 - Jingwei Zhang

I am Jingwei Zhang, a student studying Antarctic and Marine Science. In this voyage, I follow Christina and do theCTD project about the distribution of chlorophyll-a and biomass. Today, we have a science meeting at lounge3 about zooplankton and krill by Patti. After that, at 15:00, we put CTD17 into the water (pictured, right) and meanwhile, our group (with Xiao Xuan and Ziliang ) did secchi disk experiment to gain the visible depth at that time and position.

After that we helped Patti’s group to put the net into the water and collect the various creatures at the surface ocean (pictured, below). They classified and counted species in the water sample. 

When we finished the net work and secchi experiment, the CTD was back on the vessel, and we collected samples to analyse oxygen, nutrient, salinity and chlorophyll. In the secchi disk experiment, we first put the secchi disk at the sea surface and measure the ship’s height, we write that down as D0. Then we release the secchi disk to the water until you can't see it. We write down the distance as D1. The we pull the secchi disk to the depth where we can just see it, and write down the distance as D2. Thus, (D1+D2)/2-D0 is the visible depth of this station.

ZooplanktonThe experiment was repeated three times to reduce the error. To measure chlorophyll, we brought 6 bottles from different sample depths back to our lab. We used a pump to suck water through the filter and the phytoplankton will remain on the filter. We put the filter into vials and put these vials into the freezer.

At 24:00, CTD18 was released into the ocean and came out of the water at 1:14am. After the CTD was secured the MNF support staff, we went into the CTD room and helped Zanna’s group collect the samples for oxygen, nutrients and salinity. We took six sea water samples and did the filter experiment again. We put the chl vials into the freezer and use acetone to extract chl-a for 24 hours. So tomorrow we will get more data on chlorophyll distributions. Combined with existing data of pressure, transmissometer and phytoplankton active radiation we can plot a figure including more detailed distribution of chlorophyll.

Day 6, 10 April 2018 - Jingyuan Zhang

Hello everyone, I’m Nelson Zhang, an IMAS student who is studying for a bachelor of Marine Science. I will start my honours project next semester, therefore this voyage is an excellent opportunity for me to obtain scientific experience and get close to oceanography equipment. That is the reason why I decided to attend this voyage without hesitation. I am looking forward to getting to know some outstanding tutors and senior oceanography workers on this voyage, and learn how to complete a scientific oceanographic survey from them.E-log screen

On this voyage I am a member of the physical oceanography team. I will describe two main programs that I have done on 10th April. The first thing is about doing the E-log (pictured, right), which is a form where we can record every scientific event on the ship. For example,  when CTD operation (pictured, below) happens, I need to concentrate on the camera that can observe the CTD, and take notes on the E-log page. Notes should be taken at the points when CTD is deployed into the water, CTD is at the maximum depth, CTD is retrieved. The E-log records the basic information of the events by time, temperature, latitude and so on. I believe that my recording timing has improved by accumulating experience.

The CTD being resetAnother work is to learn to drive the CTD from the operation room, which is an exciting job and always gives me a sense of accomplishment. The operation orders are sent  in the operation room by us  to the person who directly controls the CTD.

For each CTD operation we put it all the way down to about 1500 meters depth. The CTD keeps doing the measurements about temperature, salinity, oxygen, conductivity, transimssometer and fluorescence during the diving time. During that time every science team chooses the depths they would like to take water sample according to the values like salinity and temperature for each depth shown on the screen. SightseeingAfter that CTD will be brought back to those depths to sample the water and finally come back to the sea surface.

Today is really a busy day, we have 3 CTD deployments on our shift. However, I know the more work I do, the more significant experience I have got. Our team also has many other interesting jobs to do, such as salinity sampling, resetting CTD, and using beautiful MATLAB code to fit data.

Since getting on board, I have been attracted by wonderful sightseeing and cute dolphins. During these six days, I have improved my level of scientific practice with the help of my excellent tutor Helen and many friendly scientists. I am looking forward to gain more experience in my jobs in the rest of our voyage.

Day 6, 10 April 2018 - Zimeng Su

Today is also an amazing day! I am Zimeng SU, a junior student in UTAS, majoring in Marine and Antarctic Science in UTAS as well as OUC. This is my second semester in Hobart in which I had the best experience ever since I came here. I was so inspired by the voyage when I heard of it at home on my summer vacation. I have not been in a ship for such a long time and this voyage trip is really exciting in fact even though I got seasick the first days. My project is zooplankton and micro plastics with six other students and my instructor Patti.Bongo net

At around 2:00 pm, after they putting CTD 9 down, we used the Neuston net at first to collect zooplankton in the surface water. Before we threw the net into the ocean, it is important to read the number on the flow meter. When the net came out of the water after 10 minutes, we had to wash the net to loosen some zooplankton that may adhere to the net. Due to the windy weather, my friend got wet when he washed the net. After then, we read the number again to calculate the total water volume passing through the net.

There is another net called Bongo net (pictured, left) which is supposed to sink into 75 meters’ depth and last for 15 minutes. It has two nets to hold zooplankton.

Fish from net samplingAfter bringing those buckets filled with zooplanktons back, we weighted them at first, then, we split them several times because the amount is so large, finally we use a microscope to figure out the different kinds of zooplankton and then count the number of them with the help of Patti. The species from Neuston and Bongo nets are different to a certain extent. Can you see the angry fish in the picture (right)? Some people came to our lab and had a look at our samples.

SunsetAt around 4pm we used a bucket with a strong rope to collect the seawater aiming to count the number and shape of micro plastic. Stainless steel from the bow of the ship to reduce the contamination. We had to compare the number of micro plastics in the bucket with that from sea water line which may be contaminated. And then, we filter the water using a mesh and count the number of micro plastics in the samples.

After dinner, I got some time to have a sightseeing of the sunset. It is my pleasure to see such an amazing sunset. In conclusion, I had a wonderful day because I had the ability to distinguish a variety of zooplankton thanks to my instructor Patti and this capacity is growing with each passing day.

Day 5, 9 April 2018 - Hongrui Xie

My name is Hongrui Xie, I am 20 years old and now studying marine and Antarctic science at UTAS and IMAS. During this voyage, I follow the guidance of Christina and do the project about the distribution of chl-a.

Underway seawater labThis is the first time that I voyage on a ship for long days, it is excellent for me to have this chance to sail. Through the voyage these past days, I learned how the vessel samples and collects data from the ocean, and I touched some equipment such as CTD and Triaxus which I just heard about in lectures. It is useful and exciting for me to have this experience, but I have to say seasickness is painful!.

At 2 am, I arrived at our lab as usual. Unfortunately, I felt the ship shaking more violently at the moment, it was shifting time and it was also the time we started working.  Normally, other two group members (Alex and Shance) and I sample every hour in the underway seawater lab (pictured, left) and then back to our lab to filter and collect chlorophyll-a by using two types of filters.Hongrui Xie with the CTD

At around 9 am, the CTD was back on the ship, we were there to help take samples to analyse the oxygen, nutrient, salinity and chlorophyll. Under the guidance of Zanna, Matt and Christina, we finished sampling efficiently and got successful samples, lucky us they were patient to our mistakes and taught us how to do it correctly. (pictured, right, Hingrui Xie with the CTD)

At around 10 am, Christina taught us how to measure chlorophyll in the Trilogy fluorometer, it was the first time that I did a job like a scientist and I was trying hard to make it perfect.

Actually, fluorescence reading is not an easy work, we need to keep chlorophyll in a dark environment and focus on details such as shaking the bottle and wipe up the test tube, in that way we can get a good result. Anyway, my group members and I finished 65 sets of data successfully.

It was a busy but good day, hope I can do better in the following days and also overcome seasickness.

Day 5, 9 April 2018 - Alexandra Johne

AlexandraCan you think of anywhere but the RV Investigator you would rather be right now? Well, I don’t think I can… My name is Alexandra, I’m 29 years old and I moved to Hobart from Munich, Germany, a little bit over two years ago to study Marine and Antarctic science at IMAS, and haven’t regretted it ever since.

Throughout the degree, I’ve found that theoretical knowledge is an absolutely necessary foundation, and I love reading about anything ocean, but practical skill and experience are what make the field of marine science so fascinating and fun.

Before boarding the RV Investigator four days ago, I had never been on a vessel this large and well equipped, and the longest I’d ever spent on the open ocean was a three day holiday boat trip in Indonesia, so I didn’t really have an idea what to expect. I was hoping, however, to gain insights into life as a marine scientist, experience working on a moving vessel that is subject to the mercy of the ocean, meet the science and general ship personnel to learn about life, and work at sea and be part of some interesting science. My project group will be investigating different sizes and distributions of single-celled algae (so-called phytoplankton) in ocean features called eddies.Tiaxus

Four days into the experience, I feel like I’m taking to life on a ship like a seal to water. So far, the first experiments have been going well with only minor problems such as leakages in some of the equipment and we were able to alleviate those after some troubleshooting. But the best part is that we get to work with the amazing high tech scientific gear that comes with the ship, such as the 36 x 12L bottle rosette sampler with the CTD which is compiling a vertical profile of the properties of seawater like salt content, temperature, oxygen, light and amount of particles and chlorophyll in the water column. My favourite instrument, however, is the Triaxus (pictured, right) just the name is pretty cool already.

To give a little bit of an instrument introduction, I interviewed Nicole, technical support officer, engineer and Triaxus operator. The Triaxus is a towed undulating vehicle, a so-called TUV, that is pulled at a distance of 1000m and more behind the mother ship to gather oceanographic information between depths of 10m down to roughly 270m.

The CSIRO TUV’s survey equipment includes a CTD with the same sensors as the vertical CTD on the rosette sampler, a laser optical plankton counter that counts plankton from 75 μm to 1050 μm, a nitrate sensor, an ecotriplet for chlorophyll measurements and a lighted camera that feeds live footage to the operations room where Nicole sits and monitors the Triaxus during the 16 hours of its deployment (pictured, left).Triaxus control

Being able to tow the Triaxus over a longer period of time in an undulating fashion is what makes the vehicle’s data so interesting, as it provides a continuous picture of the water column characteristics and allows the detection of dynamic processes. As its operator, Nicole didn’t mind sharing some of the Triaxus’s weaknesses and also her favourite features. One of the downsides of the vehicle is that it needs constant supervision which results in long, sometimes quite monotonous shifts in front of the computer. In addition, the vehicle is suspended from one fibre only which controls the TUV’s movement and is consequently not Triaxus deploymentallowed to fail. However, the camera, a vital safety feature that has been added after the first Triaxus was lost during deployment a couple of years ago, at times adds a bit of an entertainment factor (like when dolphins decide to check out the vehicle).

Another alteration to the original vehicle that Nicole and the CSIRO team have made as a safety precaution is the addition of two beams of syntactic foam wrapped in carbon fibre to prevent the Triaxus from sinking in case of any future mishaps. As you can see, the Triaxus contains some of the most amazing oceanographic technology, but it is far from having reached its full potential as an instrument, says Nicole. She would not mind seeing some extra sensors and potentially some Niskin bottles installed for an even more comprehensive picture and the in situ collection of water samples for the analysis of especially interesting patches in the ocean. A big thank you to Nicole for taking the time to answer my questions and sharing some of her expertise and experiences with me.

Day 5, 9 April 2018 - Georgia Lofts

Hi, my name is Georgia Lofts. I'm currently in the third year of my Bachelor of Marine and Antarctic Science Degree, specialising in Physical Oceanography. I am really excited to have the opportunity to be involved in the KSA324 Oceanographic Methods unit to gain some hands on practical experience in the industry and learn about life on the state of the art research vessel. So far my expectations have not been disappointed, the ship is quite impressive, and the technical equipment used on board produces some interesting and important graphics and information in a really sophisticated way.Operations Room

The scientific objectives for the voyage are to look that the physical, biological and chemical gradients associated with the East Australian Current (EAC) cold and warm core eddy systems (IN2018_T01 Voyage Plan, 2018). The research is broken down into four projects; Biogeochemical, Zooplankton and Mircoplastics, Bio-optics and Physical dynamics. Each of these projects is led by an experienced scientist in that field and is assisted by a group of students to help Central touch screen displaycollect and analyse the data.

In addition to top scientific leaders from IMAS who are in charge of the research and the student participation, the overall success of the mission is attributed to the unique collaboration of the scientists and ship crew. Special mention should be given to the all the Ship crew and support staff from ASP, MNF and CSIRO that operate, navigate, support and maintain the ship; including IT specialists, hydrographic surveyors, mechanical, electrical and robotics engineers.

On any given day you will find a collective effort of the above mentioned ship personnel manning the Operations Room (pictured, above left) and working alongside the scientists driving the research. The ‘Operations Room’ is manned 24hrs a day, and you could describe it as the hub of scientific inquiry and discovery on the voyage, it is one of the most significant aspects of daily life of the vessel as it is where all the data from the ship instruments is channelled into computers to stream live graphical displays of the information being collected.  

Blue oceanLive data feed comes in from ship instruments such as a Conductivity Temperature and Depth profiler (CTD), an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) (which measures ocean velocity), the Triaxis (a multisensory device towed behind the ship that reads Conductivity, Temp, Chlorophyll and Depth), a Multi-Beam echo Sounder, an SB Bottom Profiler (for surveying and bathymetry profiling) and a Bio-Acoustic Echo Sounder (biomass/fish finding). Data is automatically plotted up on various screens so it’s clearly visible and interpretable by all. Some of the graphics generated from the ship instruments and tracking is accessible from: and

In the data processing room works are completed by scientists and students on multiple other computers, using software such as MATLAB to do numerous analyses of the data made available by the ship and other satellite databases. There is also a central high-tech 65-inch touch screen computer on the wall in this room (pictured, above right) which can be utilised by all. The white board size screen is excellent for bringing up voyage tracking maps and graphics for group analysis as we steam along.

I am a part of the Physical Oceanography Project which will ultimately be looking at the lifetime path, the salinity, Temperature and Density gradients and the velocity structure of the eddies. So far I have been able to get familiarised with the ship and many of its instruments, meet most of the friendly crew, watch instrument deployments and retrieval, track eddie velocities and Sea Surface Height (SSH) to pin point eddy systems, delve into the wonderful world of MATLAB Scripts and plotting and much much more including regular walks out on the ship deck for fresh air, hundreds of dolphins, beautiful sunrises, up to the bridge for navigation conversations and of course the magnificently Blue Tasman Sea.

Day 5, 9 April 2018 - Wenyue Xue (Vicky)

Zooplankton collection equipmentI am Wenyue Xue (Vicky).  I'm following Patti to do the project on micro plastic and zooplankton is amazing, which shows me many kinds of zooplankton I have never seen. I will show some of them below. I work from 2am to 2pm.

At 2am April 9th, we arrived at eddy station 6 and stopped here. We used a bucket to get the sea water here, and filter it to collect the sample for microplastics. Microplastics were also filtered from the sea water that is drawn from the sea directly. This is a way to reduce error. Microplastics are small plastic particles that can stay in the environment for many years, and could accumulate in many marine organisms. They come from human life supplies and industrial supplies, and are likely impacting marine life.

ZooplanktonBesides that, we used two kinds of net called Newston and Bongo to get the sample of zooplankton. Both of them have a small measuring instrument in the opening to record the flow through the net (pictured, above left). The difference between these two nets is sampling depth, and the sampling depth of Bongo is about 75 meters, the newston is in the surface.

After collection, we recorded the weight of all of these zooplankton and used the microscope to observe and count these microplastics and zooplankton. There was an obvious difference in the variety and quantity of zooplankton between different eddies and times (pictured, above right).

TriaxusAlthough the number of zooplankton was less than before, we got some kind of fantastic and beautiful jelly fish for the first time. Most of them were a kind of purple jelly fish, they had beautiful color and the size of a bottle cap. The picture of it is shown below. It attracts many people to watch. There were other pretty zooplankton too small to take a picture, I will try some methods to shoot them from microscope.

At 8am, Nicole, an engineer, introduced an instrument called Triaxus to us (pictured, left). It will be dragged in the sea behind the ship. It has a camera to record the environment around it. Using sensors on the Triaxus, we can get an image of the instrument in the ocean in this place. It was interesting that we can see some curious dolphins around this instrument in the video.

Today’s work is full of surprise, I am looking forward to the next “fishing”, and know more about the eddy by comparing the details between the zooplankton in different eddy.

Day 4, 8 April 2018 - Mitchell Kirley

My name is Mitchell Kirley and I’m one of a twenty five student group that have had the chance to participate in the transit voyage from Hobart to Brisbane. I am an undergraduate student studying physical oceanography in a bachelor of marine and Antarctic science at UTAS and IMAS.Operations room

The ocean has always fascinated me, when I was younger it was always about surfing but in later years it’s been in delving into a deeper understanding of the mechanisms and physical nature of our oceans and what consequences they might suffer and roles they may play in the future of our planet. Ships such as the RV Investigator play an indispensable role in the way we can T-S plotnow collect and access data focused on the physical and biological properties of the ocean.

On our voyage the crew have been very generous in welcoming us aboard, and in letting us nudge their itinerary around in the hopes of finding/collecting interesting data to play with and use in a wide range of disciplines. Six other students and myself are doing physical oceanography based projects on the voyage and are conducting most of our tasks from the operations room (shown above), which has an array of monitors that have the processed and live data streaming in from the ship’s equipment and sensors. It is very easy to lose track of time in here.

My tasks on the ship so far have been focused towards trialling and tuning matlab scripts that we will be using to plot our data from underway and stationary measurements. In this aspect of my duties my matlab skills have been found wanting and my research team leaders and fellow students are probably getting a little tired of me asking them if they know why my script or their scripts I’m using aren’t working. I am slowly learning the ropes and starting to help make things that work, even if there are a few kinks that still need to be ironed out, such as the T-S plot (pictured, above right), which is of our first station down to 1500m where there are a few things I didn’t intend showing in the figure.LADCP on CTD

The underlying theme of this transit voyage is eddies, and the project I am working on is going to be focused on the velocity structure of eddies that are pinching off from the bottom of the East Australian Current. With my project in mind the most exciting piece of equipment for me is the LADCP (Lowered Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler) attached to the CTD rosette (pictured, left).

This will give us the velocity of the water column at high resolution deeper down than you can achieve with the ADCP attached to the bottom of the ship. It can also capture the vertical component of the velocity to help show upwelling and downwelling inside the eddies.

It has been a great experience these past two days seeing the processes and efforts behind the data acquisition and plotting of something as simple as a T-S (temp. v. salinity) diagram. And being honest most of the equipment on this ship is far past my comprehension but the staff on the ship and team leaders from IMAS have been very patient in explaining to us how things work and what they do. We are still in the early days of our voyage and I’m excited to see what we get in terms of data from our next set of CTD stations and how the data turns out from the LADCP.

Day 4, 8 April 2018 - Ziliang Tian

Secchi disc deploymentHi, I’m Ziliang Tian, a student studying in Marine and Antarctic Science at IMAS. During this voyage, I and six other students choose the bio-optics projects directed by Dr Christina Schallenberg.

It is very exacting to have an opportunity as the first time at sea.  As A/Prof Zanna Chase said before, one day at sea is worth about one hundred days in the classroom when it comes to learning about oceanography. Through the past few days on board, I have learned many practical and fundamental ways to collect and analyse the data from the ocean. And I think the next days are also extremely beneficial of the study of oceanography.

Next, I will show the day‘s job on my shift as a student’s view.  At about 1 pm, our ship arrived at the northern edge of eddy, and we prepared the first deployment of the CTD today. After deployment, we had a science meeting in the lounge. Dr. Schallenberg presented a lecture on biological oceanography, which covered light in the aquatic environment, its importance, species, phytoplankton, some optical methods and so on.

At about 2 pm, three members of our group began the measurement of the euphotic depth by the Secchi Disk. They needed to throw the Secchi Disk into the sea and observed when the Secchi Disk (pictured, above left) disappeared and recorded the depth. By the way,  today’s weather seems very nice from the photography.CTD loading

At about 3 pm, the CTD returned to the surface. Then three other students on the pm shift and I took the chlorophyll-a samples from the Niskin bottles in CTD, which takes about 20 minutes. We needed to check the airtightness of the bottles of the CTD and then put the sample into the “milk bottles”. Also, we had cooperation with other groups to take other samples: Dr. Helen’s group tried to get the sample to analyse the salinity and Dr. Zanna’s group tried to get the sample to analyse the chemical characteristics like nutrients in the ocean.

CTD checking bottlesThen, my group and I were back to our project’s lab to filter and collect the chlorophyll-a from seawater at the different depths collected by the CTD. Then we put them into the freezer.  Before arriving at the next point, some of group had the chance to experience how to prepare the CTD before being deployed (pictured, left and above). We tried to keep the top and bottom of bottles opened with the teaching from Will Ponsonby.

At about 6 pm, we arrived the station 2 of the eddy 2 . And then we began the same job shown before: putting the CTD into water, waitting for itsreturn and sampling from CTD. It took about 3 hours. At about 10:30 pm, we arrived the station 3 of the eddy 2 and began the job again.

Now, we finish our work at station 3 of the eddy 2. And the ship is heading towards station 4 of eddy (the eddy’s centre). And we are waiting for handing over to the next shift.

Day 4, 8 April 2018 - Haoran Wang (Fingal)

Neuston netMy name is Haoran Wang (Fingal), a student from UTAS majoring in Marine and Antarctic Science. On the ship, I am doing the zooplankton and micro plastics project with Patti.

When I heard about this voyage, I was so excited and looking forward to it because I believed that practice was as important as theory. Also, I wanted to have the experience of being at sea for ten days.

After the CTD got out of the sea at 2.46pm, a Neuston net was cast into the sea surface (pictured, left) at 3.04 pm to collect zooplankton. Before the net was put into the water, we recorded the number on the flow meter and after pulling back the net we would record the number again which means we could calculate the total water volume passing through the net. The ship sailed at the speed of 3 knots and we waited 10 minutes until pulling the net back. We collected the sample in a bucket and brought it to our lab.

Net sample in labTo collect the zooplankton under the surface, we used the Bongo net, which was 75 meters below the sea surface. From 3.35pm, the ship trawled the net for 15 minutes at the speed of 2.7 knots. Different from the Neuston net, the Bongo net consisted of two separate nets so we could get two samples. We calculated the water volume passing through the net in the same way as the Neuston net.

After removing the sample from the net to a bucket, we used a pulling tool to get the weight. Then we used a simple machine to split the sample repeatedly until the animals in sample are sparse enough to count (often more than 4 times).

MicroscopeWith the help of a microscope, we could distinguish these zooplankton by their color and shapes. Then we counted species by species and recorded their numbers. It was not easy to count the number of every species since the ship was rolling all the time.

To calculate the biomass of species, we multiplied the numbers of species with 2^n (n is the times of splitting) to get the total numbers of every species in the sample. The total number divided by the volume of water is the biomass of the species.

Today I enjoyed my work so much, especially distinguishing the different species under the microscope from which I got constant pleasure of discovery. I’m looking forward to my following days on the ship and the new discoveries.

Day 3, 7 April 2018 - Shance Zang

The first impression of tests in lab

CTDI am Shance Zhang, a student studying Antarctic and Marine Science. I will follow Christina and do the project about the distribution of chlorophyll-a and biomass.

In the voyage, we can see the CTD and other experimental equipment. The photos show the CTD. We were learning how to sample seawater from the CTD.

At about 14:30 in 6th April, we went to the CTD room, and dressed in boots and safety helmets. In this room, we learned different methods for different samples of seawater. Then we took the bottles containing seawater samples to lab.

In the labIn the lab, we had covered the chlorophyll sample vial with tinfoil in order not to expose the chlorophyll to the light, marked the bottles with numbers. We also covered the light to maintain a lightless environment for chlorophyll.

At about 15:40, we put the big bottles containing seawater on the counter (the left one below) to filter them, and used a pump to filter the chlorophyll through the little filter papers. Then we used tweezers to put the filter papers into little bottles covered in tinfoil and put bottles in the freezer. Finally, we wrote down the data of geographic position, time and number of big bottles, little bottles (the right photo below). In the process, we learned how to use the machine and clean it.

Day 3, 7 April 2018 - Yu Wang

The second day of the ship voyageCTD deployment screen

I’m Yu Wang (Sulla), an IMAS undergraduate student who studies physical oceanography. I intend to engage in marine scientific research in the future and thus I need to accumulate research experience. I seek for any chance to practice research skills and therefore, I was very excited when I heard about this ship voyage. I choose to attend this voyage unhesitatingly because this is a great chance for me to conduct marine research directly and experience the real life of oceanographer. In addition, I look forward to learning more about the equipment and improve my ability to cooperate with other people.

In this blog post, I will introduce my activities on 6th April. 6th April was the first day of our voyage and there were mainly 3 activities. First activity is operating the CTD to collect data. At 1:30 pm, all scientists and students gathered in the operation room to prepare for CTD observation. Then the crew released the CTD to sea.Dolphins! The screen (pictured, above) displayed the pressure which represents the depth. After the CTD reached the seafloor, it started to be pulled up slowly and a scientist recorded the data of temperature, conductivity and transmittance during this time. There was an episode during the CTD measurement when we discovered dolphins through the porthole (pictured). When they leaped into air, we can enjoy their beautiful clipper-built contour of body.

Sea surface temperature imageAt 6:00pm we had a tour to visit the air chemistry laboratory, where scientist Will Ponsonby introduced the equipment to us. Especially, there is a supercomputer which is used to analyze the constituents of air. Will told us that the computational ability of this supercomputer is very strong as the requirement for accuracy of constituent analysis is very high now.

After the tour, my supervisor Helen assigned tasks for our group. My task is plotting sea surface height (SSH) and plotting the current velocities as vector arrows (pictured, right). And the tasks of my groupmates are plotting sea surface temperature and plotting argo data. In the beginning, we all had difficulties to plot and asked Helen for some advice. Helen helped us to analyze the data and told us some useful matlab codes. After Helen’s tutorial, we had a handle on the problem and eventually finished the plotting successfully.

Yesterday is a rich day that I watched the whole processes of CTD measurement and visited the air chemistry laboratory with a supercomputer. Furthermore, I learned how to use matlab toolbox and got to know some useful codes. Therefore, I think this voyage is very helpful and I will try my best to do my work in the following days of voyage.

Day 2, 6 April 2018 - Xiaoxuan Jiang

The first day of voyaging

I am Xiaoxuan Jiang, a student studying Antarctic and Marine Science with high enthusiasm for voyaging. I will follow Christina and do the project about the distribution of chlorophyll-a and biomass. And the CTD and other experimental equipment, which I just saw from video, attracts me and motivates me to engage the voyage.

Lab equipmentYesterday, April 5th, we went to board excitedly. It was a little cloudy and the ocean was not peaceful. After telling some important things about safety, a crew staff showed us around the ship. The ship is larger and better-equipped than I expected. There are laundry room, gym, messroom and so on. The crew staff is very patient. He told us some rules on the ship and how to use the facilities. At 3:30 pm, an emergency muster went on and we run to deck with helmet and life jacket. I know it is not fun when a dangerous incident happens, but the view from the deck is quite fascinating.

After that, a laboratory induction was carried out and the crew staff stressed the safety issues while doing the experiments and we also realized our responsibilities to maintain the safe and the clean environment on the ship. Then the staff showed us the labs which impressed me most. There are three labs on the ship, they are dirty wet lab, clean wet lab and clean dry lab respectively. The dirty lab is the biggest one and is used to analyses phytoplankton and zooplanktons. There are contaminants in this room so it is not suitable for studying the chemical details of seawater. 

Lab equipmentWhen we need to estimate chemical properties of sea water and some material with low concentration in sea water, the clean labs are useful. In the clean lab, we covered the bottle containing the chlorophyll with tinfoil in order not to expose the chlorophyll to the light. After that we marked the bottles with numbers. We also covered the light to maintain a lightless environment for chlorophyll.

The work was quite simple but very exciting. The pictures show the overview of clean lab and all the bottle covered by tinfoil.After dinner, at 6:30 pm, another induction was carried out to stress some safety and related information. After that our group started to prepared one of the experiment equipment, Secchi disk which includes a disk, a line more than 60 meters and a heavy object. What we need to do is use the pen to mark the location of one meter and use the adhesive tape to mark the location of five meters. In this way, it is easier to observe the depth. This operation is not difficult but takes some time.

Day 2, 6 April 2018 - ChengCheng Yang

The first impression of the voyage and equipment

Boarding InvestigatorMy name is ChengCheng Yang and you can also call me Kael. I am an IMAS and UTAS student studying Antarctic and Marine Science from Ocean University of China. I have come to UTAS for about half a year, but my English is still poor, so I would try my best to make progress on my English.

This is my first experiment for boarding on a research ship. It would be an uncommon chance to become familiar with the research ship and the equipment, including CTD, ADCP and so on which I have only watch but not operate before. The reason why I participate in the voyage is that it would be a God-given chance to experience a voyage like this. The goal of this voyage is to do some research on the eddies, including physical and biological conditions. I will follow Helen and do the project of physical oceanography. After the voyage, we would have a better knowledge on the equipment and eddies, that is why I participate.

At 2 pm April 5, we boarded the research ship – Investigator, which is operated by CSIRO. This is a biggest ship I have ever seen. We start our 9 day-voyage trips from April 6 to April 14.

Investigator in portFirst of all, there are many marine crews help us to become familiar with the ship and the equipment on the ship. They told us about the safety of the ship and a crew lead us on a tour of the ship. There are many convenient facilities on the ship, including gym, laundry room, lounge and so on. What’s more, the ship is so big that is easy to lose one’s way. I have lost my way several times even after the leading trip.

After that, there is an exercise with wearing helmet and life jack to get to the designated place as soon as possible. It was a event to in case of crisis which is one way to keep our safety.

We have a great meal in the first day of voyage, and the food of the ship is pretty good. Later, the crew showed us there are three labs on the ship, including dirty wet lab, clean wet lab and clean dry lab. These places are where we would do biological and chemical study on the ship.Operations RoomAfter that, there was another safety meeting. Then Helen took us to the Operations Room (pictured, right) which is where we would do our study during the voyage.

There are several screens and show many information from the equipment including ship and water speed, equipment condition, submarine structure and so on. So, there is a place for monitoring the data from the equipment, like CTD, ADCP and so on.

We start our first participation at 4 am April 6. We would do our study about physical oceanography here. In the first day, we just get familiar with the equipment. At about 7 am April 6, the ship arrived at Maria island mooring location.

CTD deploymentThe picture (left) shows the deployment of the CTD. CTD is an oceanography instrument to measure the depth (the pressure of seawater), temperature and conductivity (which can be used to determine the salinity of seawater). What’s more, CTD can also be used to collect seawater sample. The open or closed of the sampling bottle is controlled by the computer either triggered. Other sensors also can be added to the cluster, including some measure chemical or biological parameter, like chlorophyll, dissolved oxygen and concentration of phytoplankton.

At 1 pm April 6, we did our first CTD deployed. The CTD is deployed, reaches the maximum depth, then is brought back up and recovered retrieved. From the screens, we could monitor the activities of the CTD and record the time of CTD activity.

This is only the first day on the research ship, but we have learnt many useful skills during the voyage. In the first two days, we just learn about the ship and prepare for the following experiment of this voyage. We are still looking forward to the rest of voyage.

Day 1, 5 April 2018 - Associate Professor Zanna Chase, voyage Chief Scientist

Introduction to Oceanography- students at sea

Greetings from the R/V Investigator! I’m Zanna Chase, an associate professor of chemical oceanography at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at the University of Tasmania.

My research deals with the cycling of elements within the oceans, and their interactions with geological and biological processes. This field is known as ocean biogeochemistry. My research has a focus on trace elements, including some fairly obscure elements like thorium and protactinium, which are used in paleoceanographic research. Paleoceanography refers to the study of the oceans in the past- like paleontology but for the sea. I’ve been on many oceanographic voyages through my career, mostly in the cold waters of the Southern Ocean.

My job at UTAS involves both research and teaching, and on this voyage I’m doing both. I’m here on the Investigator as Chief Scientist of a very special transit voyage between Hobart and Brisbane (IN2018_T01). This voyage is special because I’m sailing with 25 UTAS students who are privileged to experience oceanographic research first hand as part of their degrees in Marine and Antarctic Science. They are sailing as part of the IMAS unit, Oceanographic Methods. For most of these students this is their first time at sea, and it’s a unique opportunity to learn hands-on skills in oceanographic research. One day at sea is worth about 100 days in the classroom when it comes to learning about oceanography. In this blog you’ll hear from the students all about what they’re getting up to at sea.

East Australian Current eddiesDuring the transit to Brisbane we’re focusing on warm and cold core eddies of the East Australian Current. These eddies are parcels of the main flow of the EAC that have broken off, and begun to rotate. They can rotate either in a clockwise or anti-clockwise direction, and play an important role in shaping the ecological properties of the southern EAC (roughly Tasmania to NSW).

The map above, from the IMOS Ocean Current site shows the approximate path the ship will take through some eddies on the way to Brisbane. The map on the right shows the surface currents in arrows, and the sea surface temperature in colour. On the left is the sea surface height, measured from satellite; the eddies show up as blue and red ‘blobs’ on this map. We are tracking the position of the eddies as they move and we move, and will adjust our track if needed. During the voyage students will deploy instruments and collect samples to quantify the physical, chemical and biological properties of the eddies. They’re working on research projects in small groups led by an IMAS staff member. Dr Christina Schallenberg is leading a group on bio-optics, Dr Helen Phillips is leading a group on physical oceanography, A/Prof Patti Virtue is leading a group on zooplankton, and I’m leading a small group in nutrients and carbon. To make all of this happen we get amazing science support from the Marine National Facility (MNF) staff, as well as from the ship’s crew. You’ll hear more about all of this in upcoming posts, so please keep reading.

You can even follow along our current position and make some cool visualisations of the underway data coming from the ships’ sensors: Here’s a screen shot showing the sea surface temperature.surface temperatures from ship's sensors

Authorised by the Executive Director, Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
May 3, 2018