Tuesday, 1 January
First day of the year, welcome in 2008!
This morning on the ship, the eyes were a little bit swollen, the features looked drawn, movements a were little bit slower than usually… Yes, on the Polarstern, as beautiful as the party might be (and it was!), the respite is short and the scientific work doesn’t wait very long. So, at 10 o’clock this morning precisely, the scientific activities started again.
As far as I am concerned, I am lucky: the foraminifera, microscopic marine protists affectionately called “forams”, allowed me to sleep a little longer. Indeed, since they have been caught during the last deep benthic station, two days ago, they are stored in the sediment were they live, in a cool room at 1°C. I change their water every day, to supply oxygen and remove the decomposing organic matter.
More generally speaking, my work consists of sorting the sediment in order to pick out living specimens of forams, then identify them as precisely as possible, at least to genus but if possible even to species, and finally extracting the DNA in order to carry out genetic studies that will permit us to clarify the phylogeny and the evolution of this group.
The interests of studying the forams are numerous. It’s a highly diversified group, with more than 4000 actual species. They are very sensitive bioindicators of environmental change but they are also widely used as biostratigraphic and paleoecological indicators. The most well known have a shell, called “test”, whose architecture is extremely accurate and the composition very diverse (calcareous, agglutinated or organic). This last feature is usually used to make the morphological determination.
More specifically, the study of the deep forams is extremely interesting, because of their high abundance in the deep benthic samples, but also because very little is known until now about the deep species and many questions are still waiting to be answered. Hopefully, 2008 will bring us some answers, but above all and because this makes science so fascinating, some new questions!
Delia Fontaine, University of Geneva
Photos : D. Fontaine
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Thursday, 03 January 2008 17:31
Polarstern: Checking for forams on New Year's dayWritten by Polarstern Expedition
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