For three months, more than 50 researchers, fellows and support staff will carry out scientific research on the Puerto Deseado Oceanographic research Vessel (BOPD) in the Patagonian and Antarctic area. This campaign, in Antarctic waters, is a scientific activity (included in the Antarctic Annual Plan) that is developed jointly between the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET), the National Direction of the Antarctic (DNA) and the Argentine Hydrographic Service (SHN).
With scientific equipment and a laboratory on board, the Vessel crewed by personnel of the Argentine Navy will sail the Argentine Sea, the Drake Passage and the Antarctic waters (Mar de la Flota, Bellingshausen Sea, the Gerlache Strait and the South Orkney Islands).
During the campaign, the scientists will conduct studies related to Biodiversity, Hidrography, Geology, seabed geology and meteorological and physical-chemical parameters. CONICET and the DNA coordinated the participation of the 18 projects to optimize the use of the vessel.
During the first stage, 9 research projects on different areas will be developed: Biodiversity, Biology and Antarctic fish’s life cycle through morphological and molecular techniques; reproductive biology of molluscs and Echinoderms; and Genetics, Energetics and stable isotopes of those fish.
According to Juan Martín Díaz de Astarloa, principal CONICET researcher and scientific coordinator of the fist stage of the campaign, “the mission of this first stage is to explore the diversity of the Antarctic organisms that inhabit different dephs and relate that diversity to the environmental characteristics of the Antarctic waters. For this reason, the team will use collection instruments to operate at a depth of thousands of meters and specific equipment for the physical data collection such as temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen”.
“The species’ DNA will be analyzed in Argentine laboratories to know their specific identity, something like the digital fingerprint of fish”, Astarloa concludes.
At the end of the first stage, the vessel will return to the city of Ushuaia to change the scientific and technical staff. In February, the second stage is going to start and it will concentrate the South Orkney Islands, coordinated by Dr. Enrique Marschoff, researcher at the Argentine Antarctic Institute. “The activities will be oriented to the study of Bathymetry of the archipelago platform, the distribution of Benthic fauna in the marine protected area of the South Orkney Islands, and of the Plankton in the region of the Weddell – Scotia Confluence”.
On the basis of this working model, Marschoff added that “we will obtain information about distribution and abundance of birds and marine mammals; physical characteristics of the fish and molluscs fauna; pollutants present in the atmosphere; distribution and flow of water masses; bioaccumulation of toxic elements; isolation of enzyme microorganisms and samples of the DNA barcode for fish and invertebrates”.
At the end of these two phases, Gustavo Lovrich, CONICET principal investigator, is going to coordinate the third phase where the vessel will sail through the Beagle Channel and the Burdwood Bank.
The Puerto Deseado Oceanographic Vessel and the Comodoro Rivadavia coastal oceanographic Vessel together form the Hydro Oceanographic Research Unit (UNHIDO), which is administered by the CONICET and the Argentine Ministry of Defense.
All the samples collected are going to be part of the biological collections of diverse research institutes such as the Marine and Coastal Research Institute IIMyC-CONICET, the National University of Mar del Plata or the Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum of CONICET and they form the National System of Biological Data conducted by the Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation of Argentina.