Saturday, 5 January
Yesterday I received an email with exciting news - Time Magazine had recognised Antarctic biodiversity research in its Top 10 scientific discoveries for 2007. At that moment, I was muddy and tired after working through the night with our team processing the animals from the Agassiz trawl. This news put a new perspective on the day!
The discovery was reported in a Nature paper on biodiversity and biogeography of the Southern Ocean deep sea published in May 2007 by a team of 21 biologists. Right now, four of them are here at sea on RV Polarstern: Angelika Brandt (lead author), Brigitte Ebbe (polychaetes), Saskia Brix (isopods and molecular biology) and Dorte Janussen (sponges). They come from the University of Hamburg and the Senckenberg Institute in Germany. Their team found over 700 new species of organisms, including isopod crustaceans, carnivorous sponges and giant sea spiders on the sea floor of the Weddell Sea off Antarctica, at bottom depths from 700 m to 6,000 m. The email came from Fred Grassle, father of the international Census of Marine Life. He said “Dear Victoria, Angelika, and Brigitte, Best wishes for a very Happy Year! Your exploits have become famous. Congratulations, keep up the great work!”
On Polarstern, my job is the Education and Outreach part of the voyage, working with Brigitte Ebbe. I bring nearly 30 years’ experience as a seagoing biological oceanographer to the task. We work with the Census of Marine Life in the field projects CAML (Census of Antarctic Marine Life) and CeDAMar (Census of the Diversity of Abyssal Marine Life). As a top priority, we drafted a press release about the news, consulting with the voyage leader Uli Bathmann and waiting until everyone was awake to make their finishing touches.
Last night, we reflected on the events of the day with a glass of red wine. Wow, the importance of discovering and accurately describing new species had become world news. Of course, the recognition by Time Magazine was wonderful. But what really thrilled us was that the importance of our biodiversity research in this diverse and beautiful ecosystem would become better known. The marine life of Antarctica’s sea floor is cradled in deep bottom water formed by melting ice; this is connected to all the other oceans by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current. What happens in Antarctica is of fundamental importance to the health of the oceans on our planet.
Victoria Wadley Census of Antarctic Marine Life and Australian Antarctic Division
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Saturday, 05 January 2008 17:40
Good news travels fastWritten by Polarstern Expedition
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