It’s mid-October and winter seems a long way away, but planning for winter field work at Lake Baikal has to be done far in advance – winter ice is on all of our minds! Luckily it’s a fascinating topic that has all of us really excited.
The highest algal productivity occurs under ice at Baikal, dominated by some conspicuous Baikal endemics. Our Russian colleagues have studied the algae growing under the ice using video cameras and we are all interested in learning more about the community of algae, bacteria and invertebrates that is living under the ice!
While the ice supports this bounty of production on its underside, we can’t forget that on top of the ice, the lake’s top predator – the Baikal seal (nerpa) raises its pups in ice caves. Our team is very, very unlikely to see seals on the ice this winter, but hopefully the Dimensions crew will see lots of algae! (Of course, if history predicts the future, they’ll still tell Katie that they saw lots of seals.)
My daydreams of the ice are especially vivid this week, while I am a mentor at DISCCRS, interacting with an energetic group of early-career researchers, including ice specialist Chris Polashenski from Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab near Dartmouth College. Chris works in the Arctic and Alaska, and his experiences provide a lot of insight for the upcoming Baikal work. I’ve been bending his ear about Lake Baikal ice, and learning more from him about environmental factors that affect the clarity of the ice and subsequently affect the light environment for the algae.
Meanwhile, we’ve also been talking with our UK colleagues Anson Mackay and David Jewson about coordinating our winter work to ease some of the logistics and share knowledge with each other. Of course we will have to work around Anson’s plans to run the Baikal Ice Marathon! (?!)