We are now in at 81N, 14E. It took us some time getting up here, but we are finally north of Svalbard!
One of the reasons to travel this far north is to look for ice-associated amphipods. Amphipods are members of the crustacean family, and can be found in many different marine and freshwater habitats. In the Arctic, amphipods can be found in the benthos (sea floor), in the pelagic (open water) zone, as well as under and within sea ice.
Arctic sea ice has been drastically changing—it has become thinner and the overall extent of sea ice has been shrinking. While disappearing sea ice has immediate consequences for larger marine mammals that rely on sea ice for a hard surface to give birth (many species of seals) and to travel and hunt (polar bears), the smaller animals that use sea ice as habitat will also be affected.
In 2012, researchers found one ice-associated amphipod species, Apherusa glacialis, as deep as 2000 meters, far away from their sea ice home. They suggested that Apherusa might be using deep-water layers to overwinter, then migrating back up to the sea ice in the spring. This hypothesis (which you can read more about here) is compelling, as many scientists wonder how ice-associated organisms (from amphipods to polar bears) will survive without sea ice. Therefore, we are on the hunt for amphipods. We are casting deep-water multinet samples (as deep as 1800m!) to see if we can find any of these ice-associated amphipods in deep water. So far, we have found two Apherusa glacialis at 800-400m depth (one juvenile and one pregnant female).
-Erin Kunisch (PhD candidate, UiT)