Alf Norkko is a professor of marine ecology and academic leader of Tvärminne Marine Research Station, University of Helsinki. He leads a multidisciplinary science team where scientific diving is an integral part of conducting high quality science to support the conservation of marine ecosystems. He has been an active scientific diver for over 30 years and he and his team use diving, including experimental work on the seafloor, to explore how marine biodiversity in coastal ecosystems is impacted by human pressures such as nutrient pollution and climate change. He has led and participated in multiple scientific diving campaigns to the Ross Sea in Antarctica, New Zealand and the Baltic Sea. The marine research station is developing into a leading institution for scientific diving training where new techniques and technical diving approaches will be developed to improve our capacity to conduct high quality science.
Title of the presentation: "Diving under the ice - the role of scientific diving for exploring climate change impacts in coastal Antarctic ecosystems".
Our global oceans, and particularly our polar ecosystems, are undergoing rapid change and biodiversity loss due to accelerating human impacts, including climate change. In coastal ecosystems in Antarctica, the thickness and spatial extent of coastal sea ice is the most important factor influencing coastal marine ecosystems. Recent rapid changes in sea ice conditions have prompted research to understand the consequences for marine ecosystems and their biodiversity.
I will highlight results from our most recent scientific diving expedition to McMurdo Sound in the Ross Sea, Antarctica, where we conducted experimental work on the seafloor to better understand the consequences of changing sea ice conditions. McMurdo Sound is the world’s most southerly marine ecosystem not permanently covered by thick glacial ice. Here our New Zealand-Finnish research team established a field camp on the sea ice and conducted scientific diving campaigns under the 3-m thick sea ice.
Our scientific diving activities involved a range of activities including conducting experimental work on the seafloor. Doing scientific work in these conditions is logistically demanding and various technical diving techniques are essential, not only for safe diving, but also for good science. Research conducted through scientific diving is superior to most remote methods (e.g. ROV’s etc.) for conducting insightful science. In particular, there is a potential for an increased application of e.g. rebreathers, combined with UW navigation and propulsion to expand our capacity for this type of research. In this context the technical diving community has a potential to play an important role in the future