Wednesday 13 February 2013

Ocean Sampling Day - Helgoland

In the German Bight, about 60 km off the estuaries of the Elbe and Weser rivers, lies the small rocky island Helgoland. Due to its highly diverse marine life and many different easily accessible intertidal and subtidal habitats, this location has attracted many scientists for more than 150 years. In 1873, the Helgoland Roads Data Series started with daily measurements of temperature and salinity which was extended to cover microbiology in 1963. This long-term series of daily measurements and water sampling is under the supervision of the Biologische Anstalt Helgoland (BAH - and takes place at the ‘Kabeltonne’ on Helgoland Roads (54°11.3’N, 07°54.0’E).

Lange Anna ("Long Anna" or "Tall Anna") on Helgoland

The sample collection was carried out by the BAH. Although the North Sea can be rough in winter, the institute has a lot of experience to allow sampling almost every day throughout the year. The filtering process was carried out by Hilke Döpke in the lab. This time it was possible to filter 2 x 2L of water through a Sterivex Filter without a prior pre-filtration step. Due to the upcoming Christmas holiday we decided to postpone the shipping and rather store the samples at the BAH until January 2013.

A local airline offers regular flights from Helgoland to Bremerhaven
A couple of weeks ago we started to prepare shipping of the samples to Argonne National Lab in Chicago, USA. If you live on Helgoland it is sometimes challenging to plan for international shipping especially during winter season. Dry ice is mandatory for international shipping and the cold chain is often interrupted when the airplane or the ship cannot reach the island due to heavy weather conditions. Moreover, dry ice needs to be shipped from the mainland first and often it is sublimated when the ship finally reaches the island. Therefore we decided to do the shipping via the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology (MPIMM) in Bremen. This means first of all we had to transport the samples to the mainland. This was done by airplane to avoid long transport time without proper cooling. In the next step, samples were picked up at the airport and transported to the MPIMM for further processing. Finally, with the samples stored at the MPIMM it was easy for us order dry ice and ship them to the US. Although shipping samples from Helgoland is challenging we think that the OSD is definitely worth the effort. Along with the contextual data provided by the Helgoland Roads Data Series we further believe that our samples can contribute to determine a baseline of marine biodiversity and functions on the molecular level.

Antje Wichels, Hilke Döpke, Gunnar Gerdts und Anna Klindworth