Archive | February, 2014

Experiment One – Krill Blood!

Hi All,

Sorry it has been a while since our last blog post. We’ve had a super busy and productive season so far. There are a few posts coming your way to show you what we’ve been up to, both in work and free time. So heeeere we go…

Once we got our krill from the Lawrence M. Gould, we decided to kick off the season with some short term experiments. The purpose of these is to see how krill physiology changes over a short time period (48 hours) when they’re exposed to high CO2 and/or high temperature. Some things that we measured included blood pH, cellular pH, and lactate.

Krill Blood
Krill have an open circulatory system, which means that there are no veins, arteries, or other blood vessels to carry around their juices. Like many other crustaceans, they also do not have any hemoglobin, the iron containing molecule in our blood that carries oxygen and gives it that nice red color. Instead, they use hemocyanin, a copper based molecule, which means the blood is clear-ish and difficult to find in these little guys. Brad and Abigail were able to find a nice large pool of it to take samples from.

Brad drawing blood from one of our krill

Brad drawing blood from one of our krill

Why these measurements?

One way that organisms can keep their machinery running smoothly is by moving things out of cells and into their blood, or vice versa. By measuring the cellular pH and blood pH, we can get an idea of how krill are moving around those little H+ ions (acidity).

Lactate works as an indicator of anaerobic respiration, the kind of metabolism that goes on when not enough oxygen can get to muscles in order to produce all of the energy they need. There are a couple of reasons organisms have to switch to this kind of respiration, but either is because they’re using oxygen more quickly, they’re have trouble getting oxygen to the muscles, or some combination of the two.

To measure lactate and cellular pH, their tails were chopped off and frozen to be analyzed back home. We do love our animals, but in order to study them, sometimes we have to do not-so-nice things. We are sorry, and we hope that their sacrifice will benefit the future of all krill-kind. No picture right here, in case it’s something you didn’t want to see, but feel free to click the link below if you do.


Measuring all of these parameters is important, because if a krill’s metabolism is going to change under increasing ocean temperature and acidity, these results can help explain how this change comes about. It will be very interesting to see what we get here – and how it comes together to tell the story of how krill respond to a changing ocean.

Right now Abigail and I are conducting some repeats of this same experiment (which are always good to have in science) as well as a similar experiment where we see how the krill may react to the same conditions over a longer time period (21 days).

Experiment Two – Juvenile Growth

Since we ended up with a nice mix of sub-adults (essentially krill in their late “teens”) and juveniles on our first krill delivery, we decided it would be a good time to conduct a juvenile growth experiment. Much like most animals, krill grow more quickly in their early stages than they do once they are nearly full grown – so the juveniles we got are ideal for this kind of an experiment.

We set up three treatments, as usual, each with 30 krill in their own jars. Each jar was observed daily, to see if the krill had molted. Krill do not grow continuously, but they can increase size (or sometimes decrease) each time they molt. Each time a krill molted, we weighed it and measured its length, as well as the length of the exoskeleton it shed. This allowed us to calculate what’s called the growth interval, between the krill and molt lengths.

Measuring krill length

Measuring krill length

A krill "molt"

A krill “molt”

Krill typically molt every 30 days or so, and about 25 days later we only have one straggler that hasn’t molted yet. The krill in the high temperature treatment seemed to molt much more quickly than those in the control and high CO2 treatments. This isn’t entirely too surprising, since most biological rates in ectothermic (“cold blooded”) organisms increase as temperature does. It also seems that these guys had a smaller (or negative) growth interval, as compared to the ones in the other treatments. One potential explanation for this is that, under higher temperature conditions, the krill have to devote more energy to metabolism than to growth, but it’s too early to call for sure.

Kickin’ it at Palmer Station

It hasn’t been all work and no play for us at Palmer station this season. Aside from plenty of indoor activities like movies, music, ping-pong, and pool, there is a lot of great outdoors to enjoy down here.

The Great Outdoors

The scenery alone makes sitting around and relaxing a great time. We’ve had plenty of nice sunsets, and watching how quickly the ice can blow in still amazes me. Earlier in the season the sunsets would last for hours, and run right into sunrise with no darkness in between.

IMG_1782 IMG_1808

And there’s always the glacier, if you want to hike up for an even better view.  The flags mark the edge of a safe hiking area. If you cross them, look out, you’re in danger of falling into a crevasse and spending the rest of the season down there. From up here you can see all of the islands surrounding Palmer station, and beyond. Unfortunately we picked a pretty stormy day for this trek…

We’ve been able to camp out quite a few nights. Some people do almost every day.  There’s not much wood around to start a campfire with, but the weather has been awesome and hardly ever too cold.  No dorm room on station can beat camping out in the backyard – it’s really amazing to wake up in the morning to the grunting call of a leopard seal or the splash of a big piece of ice falling off the glacier.

CAMPING! View from the tent

At first, the 24 hour sunlight was a bit too much, and we would have to pull our hats over our eyes to get some zZzZz’s in the tent, but now it’s getting pretty dark at night and we almost have “normal” sunrises and sunsets.
The Moon and Antarctica


The Wildlife

Occasionally we’re able to take a boat out to one of the islands near station and do a bit of exploring. We’ve gotten to see some pretty cool wildlife, like these Adélie penguins on Torgerson Island…
IMG_1749 IMG_1750IMG_1751IMG_1736

…and even some babies, like the fuzzy guy in the pic below.

Even though the penguins get most of the attention, they’re not the only birds around. The brown skuas are my personal favorite. These guys are pretty intense, and have a reputation for dive-bombing scientists that wander too close to their nesting sites. They’ll also snatch up the occasional penguin chick, if given the chance.
IMG_1733 IMG_1734

We even saw some grass out on Torgerson! It sounds boring, I know, but it was NOT something I expected to see in Antarctica. There is actually a surprising amount of green stuff down here, in small patches. Most the “plant” life is in the water, as phytoplankton or kelp.

You don’t need to get on a boat to see the wildlife around here, though. Just step outside the lab and there’s usually something going on, like lazy seals floating by on ice floes and the other oft-forgotten bird, the noble Showy Sheathbill (probably the animal we see hanging around the most).
P1000022 P1000025 IMG_0278IMG_0311

Hope this was a nice little break, I know it was for us. Next up….more science!

Brine Shrimp Experiment

We did another experiment in my biology class with brine shrimp. This experiment was really time consuming it took a week to complete. I learned what brine shrimp were, they are really tiny creatures.

This experiment was really long and frustrating at sometimes. It was difficult to count and measure the brine shrimp because they were so tiny and they moved. We put approximately put 30 brine shrimp in three different solutions (tap water, water vinegar mix hot/cold) and measured their growth. I monitored the tap water subject while other members of my group monitored the rest. We left them under a heat lamp after we got done measuring their numbers and growth.

I learned a lot from this experiment such as what brine shrimp are, and how they grow. I enjoyed this experiment because it was fun to see the little shrimp swim around. I think I’ll check out a book about brine shrimp. Dalton R.

Food Web Game

In my biology class we played a game where each person picked one of four animals and choose whether to eat salps or eat krill. The animals that we available to choose were a penguin, bird, whale, fish. This game is pretty fun because it relates to what really happens in real life.

This game represents how animals compete for survival. The bird is probably the best animal to be because it can either eat salps or krill. So id\f you’re the bird you can decide who lives and who dies. We learned that there is not enough food for every animal if the sea ice keeps melting. The krill live under/in the sea ice and the krill disappear when the ice disappears

I enjoyed playing this Food Web game because to me it was educational and fun. Hopefully we will do another game like this in the future. My classmates and I really enjoyed this game and learned competition between animals. Dalton R.

Brine Shrimp

The brine shrimp experiment was showing how brine shrimp grew in different pH levels. We used three different types of solution which are regular tap water, warm water, and vinegar was the last type.  There were four of us in our group and we had ninety brine shrimp egg.

In this experiment we were trying to see what solution brine shrimp grew the best in. We found out that the more acidic the solution would kill off some of the brine shrimp. The regular water and the warm water were pretty close but the regular water grew a little more than the warm water. Overall the acidic and the warm water grew less brine shrimp than regular water. We think that they would grow better in cold water more than anything.

The brine shrimp experiment was good because it showed where brine shrimp grew the best. We were thinking that they wouldn’t grow good in the acidic solution. But we didn’t know whether or  not the warm water would grow good or not. Kenny F.

Brine Shrimp

We did an experiment on how brine shrimp would grow at different temperatures and different ph or acidity levels. And this is an important experiment on a small scale of the effects on the krill, which are vital food sources for many of the animals in the ocean.

We counted out 30 brine shrimp eggs then placed them in 1 of 3 different solutions. One jar contained hot water and vinegar, another contained cold water and vinegar and the last had tap water. We tested the growth of the shrimp, the ph of the water, and the temperature of the water every day before we started class. We stored the jars under a heat lamp. The acidity of the water has a great effect on the brine shrimp and their growth although the temperature has almost no effect on them; the brine shrimp in the more acidic solution grew slower and the ones in the less acidic water grew faster.

We tested the growth of the brine shrimp in different environments. We could have furthered our experiment by placing them in non-acidic water then start to make the water more and more acidic every day and see how the change affects them. Lexi G.

Shell pH

We did and experiment on how the acidity or ph affected the shells in the ocean and this is important because there are animals in the ocean that need their shells to survive and some of the other aquatic depend on the shellfish for a vital food source

We tested the strength of the shells with our biology books then placed the shells into 3 different solutions of Vinegar, Salt water, and tap water. The shells in the vinegar solution dissolved the clam shells completely because of the high acidity level of the vinegar but the scallop shells stayed completely intact

The ph or acidity level has a great effect on the shells. For a further experiment we could have added a bit of vinegar to the salt water to see if a low amount of acidity would dissolve the shells over a long period of time. That would prove that even a slight acidic level change in the water could affect the shells in a negative way. Lexi G.

Brine Shrimp Experiment

This experiment we did in Biology and in my Wildlife Management class. It resembled how brine shrimp grow in different conditions. Unfortunately, they all died both times.

In each experiment, we put about 30 shrimp in each jar. One jar was just tap water, the other was vinegar water, and the last was hot vinegar water. We observed them for a week. They grew for a few days and swam around a bit. In the end, they all died but we don’t really know why.

We didn’t notice which type of water they did best in, but they ended up dead in all of them. We think in Wildlife Management that they got to cold. We still aren’t sure what killed them. I wouldn’t have an idea of how to further this experiment. Allie T.

Shells and pH Experiment

This was the experiment we did in Biology with the sea shells and the pH of the water they were in. We soaked different shells and scallops in waters with different pH. This was to resemble the effect of pH on ocean creatures.

We soaked one shell and scallop in calcium water (ocean water), another set in vinegar water, and the other set in regular tap water. One of the shells disappeared. I’m guessing it dissolved in the vinegar water. We tested the shell and scallop strength by stacking books on top of them. It took a lot of books to break the shell and scallop in the calcium water.

The main idea was to represent that regular ocean water without any acidity is healthy for shells and scallops. The more acidic the water is, the less healthy it is for them. To further explore the topic, I would use different levels of acidity and actual ocean water. Allie T.

Skip to toolbar