Major Antarctic biodiversity voyage underway

Tangaroa off to survey biodiversity in the Ross Sea. (Photo: John Mitchell, NZ IPY-CAML)

Twenty-six scientists – including 19 from NIWA – and 18 crew have embarked on a 50-day voyage of scientific discovery. Prime Minister Helen Clark farewelled the party on Tangaroa as they headed off to survey biodiversity in the Ross Sea.

The voyage is part of the NZ IPY-CAML project, New Zealand’s largest involvement in two major international research programmes: International Polar Year (IPY) and the Census of Antarctic Marine Life (CAML).

The team is studying a variety of life forms – from the microscopic to the mega-sized – and the interactions between them, covering a wide range of environmental and geographic gradients. They are sampling and filming life from the sea surface to the seabed, at depths of up to 4000 m, in areas not previously explored.

Data will be analysed over three years and taxonomists expect to find many new species among the samples. The project will help us to understand Ross Sea biodiversity and its ecosystem roles – including aspects related to management of the toothfish fishery – and provide baseline information to help monitor the biological effects of climate change in the region.

NIWA is leading the voyage, which is funded by Land Information New Zealand, in part under the Ocean Survey 20/20 programme. The Ministry of Fisheries is lead partner for the project.

To follow the voyage’s progress, see: www.niwascience. co.nz/rc/antarctica/ipy-caml/. Educational material can be found at: www.sciencelearn.org.nz/

Research subject: AntarcticaBiodiversity