The Ross Sea is the one of the most productive regions in Antarctica and supports large populations of several key species in the Ross Sea food web, including copepods, crystal krill (Euphausia crystallorophias), and Antarctic silverfish (Pleuragramma antarcticum). Copepods and crystal krill dominate the diets of Antarctic silverfish, the dominant fish species in the high Antarctic zone, and silverfish are a major link between lower (copepods, krill) and higher (fishes, marine mammals, flighted birds, Adlie and Emperor penguins) trophic levels. Despite the significance of these key species, there is limited understanding of copepod, krill, and silverfish mesoscale distribution, spatial structure of age/maturity classes, and their interactions with physical drivers within the Ross Sea. Autonomous underwater profiling gliders are a developing technology that offers the potential for providing high spatial, temporal, and depth resolution data on regional scales. The project will test the capability of a multi-frequency echo sounder integrated into a Slocum Webb glider with the aim of providing the first glider-based acoustic assessment of simultaneous distributions of three trophic levels in the Ross Sea. Complementary glider sensors measuring physical, chemical, and biological parameters will provide mesoscale and sub-mesoscale hydrographic information from which phytoplankton-zooplankton-fish interactions and the relationships between these organisms and physics drivers (sea ice, circulation features) will be investigated. The approach proposed here, glider acoustics, is relatively new and has the potential to be transformational for investigating food webs and the Ross Sea ecosystem. Researchers will modify and integrate an Acoustic Zooplankton and Fish Profiler (AZFP) multi-frequency echo sounder into a Slocum Webb G2 glider with the capability to differentiate between krill and other types of zooplankton, including copepods, and different sizes of krill and silverfish. The AZFP will be complemented with the existing glider sensors including a CTD, a WET Labs BB2FL ECO puck configured for simultaneous chlorophyll fluorescence (phytoplankton biomass) and optical backscatter measurements, and an Aanderaa Optode for measuring dissolved oxygen. The new sensor suite will be tested during a four-week glider deployment, where it will conduct acoustic surveys to map distribution and abundance of multiple zooplankton taxa and silverfish during the austral summer along the Terra Nova Bay polynya ice shelf and in adjacent continental shelf waters. The relationships between phytoplankton-zooplankton-fish distributions and the physical drivers of zooplankton and silverfish species and size distributions will be investigated. Coordinated ship-based acoustic sampling and net tows/trawls will be conducted multiple times during the glider deployment to validate glider acoustic-based species, size, and abundance measurements. Open accessible, automated data produced during this project will be made available through RUCOOL (Rutgers University Center for Ocean Observing Leadership) and THREDDS (Thematic Real-time Environmental Data Distribution System). The production of consistent, vertically-resolved, high resolution glider-based acoustic measurements will define a successful outcome of this project that should help in identifying the challenges in their use as a potentially cost-effective, automated examination of food webs in the Antarctic.
|Effective start/end date||8/15/17 → 7/31/19|
- National Science Foundation (NSF)