Welcome to the web site for Sediment and Solute Transport on Rivers and Margins (SSTORM) Research Group! Reide Corbett and J.P. Walsh from East Carolina University and the UNC Coastal Studies Institute lead the team.
Check out our research in/on wetlands, estuaries, barrier islands, shelves and groundwater.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Time Series complete! On to more work aboard the Zodiacs!

Today's Blog comes from Jared Crenshaw (ECU graduate student)

Yesterday (28 January), we completed our fourth camping trip near Palmer Station, and bode farewell to a group of elephant seals that were sleeping on some nearby rocks every time we have been out to the area over the past few weeks. After a brief celebration, we began packing and preparing to do more work aboard the Zodiacs. Today we collected seawater samples and information about the structure of the water column in Arthur Harbor. Afternoon temperatures were in the upper 30's, which is warm for this region (its summer time down here!). Because of these warm temperatures and direct sunlight, the nearby glaciers melt quickly and large chunks of ice often fall into the sea. This can cause the surface of the water to be covered in ice despite the warm temperatures. In most cases, this ice doesn't completely restrict our ability to reach a location although it can make getting around take a little longer. While we are busy collecting samples during most of our time out on the water, we do get the opportunity to observe some of the wildlife. Today we saw several crabeater seals taking a break on some of the larger chunks of ice floating around in the harbor. The crabeater and elephant seals in this area seem to enjoy taking long naps, enjoying the sunlight as they drift about. We have pondered the fact that they may fall asleep in one location and wake up hours later in an entirely different area.


Educational Antarctic Tidbit (E.A.T.)

While it may seem like crabeater seals would enjoy a good crab, there aren't any crabs in the Antarctic for them to eat. In fact, over time they have developed specialized teeth that accommodate their primary food source, Antarctic Krill. Crabeater seals primarily compete with humpback and minke whales for food, and are the most abundant type of seal in the world. Not immune to predation, crabeater seal pups are a very important food source for the slightly more aggressive and less comfortable to be around leopard seal. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Camping in Antarctica

It has been a really busy week!  We just returned from our second camping trip to sample. Since our last blog we have completed two 24-hour sampling periods and also sampled from the Zodiacs in Arthur Harbor near Palmer Station. The 24-hour sampling is extremely labor intensive and requires ideal conditions. The weather has improved significantly, so all scientists are in full force and collecting as much data as possible during these conditions. Our 24-hour sampling (we refer to them as time-series) starts off with station staff dropping us on-site with all of our gear using the Zodiacs. Since the glacier behind Palmer is melting so fast, it is unstable to hike and so we are only able to access this location by boat. Once we are there, the only way back to station is to radio them to come pick us up. We then sample groundwater and the nearshore surface water every 2 to 3 hours. This requires us to “camp” in Antarctica.  Unfortunately, there is no fire or roasting marshmallows at our camp, but it still has other forms of entertainment. We were able to see the glacier calving, three types of penguins, elephant seals, and Minke whales.  It is extremely cold to stay out in these conditions overnight. Leigha was wearing eight shirts under her jacket! Both trips were a huge success.


Antarctic Educational Point:


Many times people often think we are at the South Pole conducting our research, but we are actually on the Antarctic Peninsula, 1744 miles from the South Pole. Lucky for us the Peninsula has a milder climate. So, this educational point is about the South Pole since the blog gives you an idea about the Antarctic Peninsula. The South Pole is actually on land (unlike the North Pole) covered by a glacier with an elevation of approximately 9000 ft. The South Pole moves about 20 ft/year because the glacier is moving. In order to keep the true South Pole marked correctly, the marker is relocated every year. The temperatures are almost always negative and it is considered one of the largest deserts because there is minimal precipitation. The United States is currently the only country to have a station at the South Pole. 



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hauling Ice...

We hauled about 2000 lbs of glacier and sea ice the other day!  We carried glacier ice by hand in multiple containers down the Marr Glacier behind Palmer Station and collected sea ice from the boating ramp. In order to use tracers to quantify discharge of glaciers, we have to know the end-member concentrations contributing to the nearshore seawater. Next, we had to melt all the ice we collected so we can analyze it. Believe it or not, melting large quantities of ice in Antarctica is actually quite challenging.


We sampled another glacial stream discharging from the Marr Glacier to continue our land-based portion of the study. We are now geared up and ready to sample other stations from the Zodiacs because the sea ice restricting boating activities at Palmer Station has finally moved out.  Unfortunately, we woke up to 30 knot winds, which is above the upper wind limit (20 knots) for boating. As you can see from our first week on station, weather and ice can have strong impact on when and how we sample. We finally made it out on the water for a short period to start sampling from Zodiacs. But once again, we were called back to station because of strong winds.


For this post and future posts I will start including interesting information about Antarctica and other projects occurring on station.


Antarctic Educational Point:


Got Krill? This happens to be everyone’s favorite kid’s T-shirt sold here at Palmer Station, but there is some meaning behind it too. Krill are an important part of the food chain. Birds, fish, penguins, and even large whales such as the Humpback consume krill. Recent studies show that there has been a decline in krill populations in Antarctica so understanding the dynamics of krill populations is important for the entire ecosystem. Dr. Kim Bernard is one of the scientists trying to understand krill populations and how predators find and feed on large aggregations of krill. One fact that Dr. Bernard finds interesting about krill is their life span. Krill can live up to 5 years! That’s impressive for an animal of their size (~2.5 inches).


Photo 1: Rick Peterson hauling glacier ice down Marr Glacier.

Photo 2: The team is looking for sampling sites up to the edge of the glacier along the streams.

Photo 3: Following stream discharge to Arthur Harbor.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

A team explores a possible new trail at CSI

It was cold yesterday, but that didn’t stop a hardy bunch of folks from donning waders and heading into the marsh areas of the CSI campus. 


The team was looking at the possibility of creating a trail and boardwalk to access the marsh and sound.  The adventure was a success, although a couple people ended up getting wetter than planned.


In the process, the exploration party witnessed some beautiful ice features associated with exposed tree trunks and found some interesting historical remains.  Dr. Nathan Richards is interested in exploring this area more in the future.   Drs. Corbett and Walsh along with ECU students Jessica Strand, David Hawkins and other are initiating some marsh research in the area, so the walking tour provided a nice perspective.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

2014 Antarctic Field Season has begun….

Guest Blogger and SSTORM Post Doc, Dr. Kim Null writes:
We made it!  Here we are for our second season in Antarctica measuring glacial meltwater discharge to the coastal ocean.  This year we are starting off the season at Palmer Station and finishing it with a 5-day research cruise in March. The team currently on station is composed of four scientists, Kim Null, Rick Peterson, Jared Crenshaw, and Leigha Peterson.  Then the other half of the team will pick us up near the end of the season for sampling from the research vessel. It has been an exciting trip so far. The Drake Passage was not that kind to us this year as we made our way south on the Lawrence M. Gould (LMG). We had 50 knot headwinds slowing us down and creating some rough seas.  We arrived at Palmer Station on January 5 and immediately began setting up the labs. It looks like chaos but it is actually quite organized. There is a lot of gear that must fit into limited space. That was accomplishment number one.  Yesterday (January 7th) we had our first day of sampling. We hiked to the glacier face and conducted sampling from a glacial stream that discharges into the ocean. Sampling entails collecting large volumes (100L) of water to measure different tracers we use to quantify glacial meltwater to the ocean. Glacial meltwaters (surface and subsurface) have unique chemical signatures compared to seawater that allow us to distinguish them.
It has been an interesting start to the austral summer at Palmer Station because the station has been bounded by ice that has halted boating activities for most of the summer season so far. Unfortunately we are surrounded by ice once again right now.  The larger research vessels like the LMG have no problem moving through the large concentrated brash ice, but it poses a problem for the smaller Zodiacs that we use to conduct sampling near station.  Although we cannot start our sampling by boat, we have plenty of other sampling and prepping to keep us busy.  Hopefully the wind will change direction soon and blow the ice back to sea.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Marsh Field Trip

Had a good day exploring local marsh sites with Aaron McCall (The Nature Conservancy) and Jessi Strand, David Hawkins, Reide Corbett and J.P. Walsh (ECU/CSI).