It was during summer 2005, on the East coast of Greenland, that Vagabond and
her crew started looking more at plankton. Our mission was to plunge a net at
regular intervals in the feeding area of little auks, close to a big colony on
Liverpool Land. This bird, the largest in the Arctic, feeds mostly on plankton
species that grow under the ice. The health of this little penguin is linked
to the sea ice condition. Little auk becomes an indicator of climate change.
Since then, we had many opportunities to stay in touch with plankton, to our
delight. Each observation leads to discovery!
In December 2012, the Observatoire du Plancton has given us a small plankton
net, while Océanopolis, provided us with a microscope. Back home, on board
Vagabond, frozen in ice, we started to regularly send pictures of plankton
living under the ice in winter in the Canadian Arctic. The more complicated is
to make a hole large enough for the net, it's a good reason to join our
friends Inuit hunters who catch seals with nets under the ice. We can use the
existing holes. Back on board Vagabond, using our little microscope, hunters
are stunned to find such a variety of creatures in their own garden!
As part of the GreenEdge project
(2014-2016), we study the phytoplankton spring bloom in Qikiqtarjuaq (Nunavut,
Canada ). Dozens of researchers, all kinds of sophisticated instruments, and
even the Amundsen icebreaker are mobilized to analyze the phenomenon: the
flowering of the ocean in spring! Inuit as much as bears, whales or seabirds
are concerned by phytoplankton, at the origin of the main food web.
GreenEdge offers an unprecedented
opportunity for collaboration with the Inuit, who willingly share their
knowledge and are curious about scientific discoveries.
Plankton also eat clams. Qikiqtarjuaq is probably the only community in
Nunavut with local divers, digging for clams. To get samples of clams, sea
urchins, algae... twice a month, diving under the ice for
GreenEdge scientists, is an opportunity
for us to share happy moments with our friends Inuit divers: it is all about
science, collecting food and leisure. Diet and even the Inuit culture are
closely linked to the health of plankton, and thus to climate change.