Sea Ice Physics and Ecosystem eXperiment

18 September 2012

Caitlin Gionfriddo, a research assistant working with Earth Science’s John Moreau and Robyn Schofield, is investigating mercury deposition in Antarctica. She is working at the intersection of atmospheric composition and geomicrobiology research areas in this exciting multi-disciplinary SIPEX II campaign.

Over 50 scientists from eight countries, including from University of Melbourne, will be setting sail to the sea-ice zone aboard the Aurora Australis to conduct the second Sea Ice Physics and Ecosystem eXperiment (SIPEX II) on Friday September 14.

The seven-week voyage will be coordinated by the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (ACE CRC) and the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) and will continue and expand upon the research of the first SIPEX, conducted between September and October of 2007. SIPEX focussed on the relationships between the physical sea ice environment and the sea ice biology – namely algae and krill living beneath the ice.

The overall aim of the SIPEX II expedition is to gain insight into the relationships between the physical sea-ice environment, marine biogeochemistry and the structure of ecosystems in the Southern Ocean.

The Australian Antarctic Division identifies the following as key areas of study:

  • snow cover on ice floes;
  • sea ice thickness and deformation processes;
  • the effects of waves in the sea ice zone on sea ice floe size;
  • the physical properties of snow and ice, such as crystal structure, temperature and salinity;
  • the exchange of climate sensitive gases carbon dioxide, methane and dimethylsulfide, between the sea ice and the atmosphere;
  • the distribution and productivity of sea ice algae and phytoplankton;
  • the relationship between the physical sea ice environment and the abundance, physiology and condition of Antarctic krill.

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