About microbiomes, public deep-sea viewing and breakfast…

Hello dear SONNE friends

It’s time again for a new blog entry! The following lines will provide an insight into the daily schedule of Kathrin Busch onboard R/V SONNE.

But first of all: Kathrin is a PhD student at GEOMAR Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel where she is working in the research unit ‘Marine Microbiology’ led by Prof. Dr. Ute Hentschel Humeida. The unit is partner of the EU-project SponGES, specifically focusing on deep-sea sponges of the North Atlantic. Here onboard the SONNE, marine biologist and deep-sea ecologist Kathrin is part of the sponge team led by Prof. Dr. Peter Schupp.

Kathrin Busch is taking the Niskin bottles (water samples) from ROV Kiel6000.

Kathrin is interested in the microbiomes of different deep-sea sponges. A microbiome is the entity of microbes colonizing a particular organism, i.e., in Kathrin’s case this is a huge variety of bacteria associated with sponges. With her research she aims to provide a biogeographical comparison between different ecological zones. More specifically, she wants to unravel whether or not the bacterial communities between individual sponges in different biogeographical zones are different. Therefore, the Kiel-based researcher and her colleagues collect sponges from a wide range of biogeographical zones in the deep Pacific, Atlantic and even the Arctic Ocean!

Fair enough. But how does Kathrin’s regular working day onboard the SONNE look like?

„Breakfast first…“ (personal communication Kathrin Busch, R/V SONNE, 2017) – it follows an amazing waiting time when the ROV Kiel6000 (remotely operated vehicle, a deep-sea diving robot) is descending into the abyss to collect samples. During this time, marine biologist Kathrin is amazed following the action at the seafloor live and in HD onboard R/V SONNE where the individual organisms and their habitat are protocoled thoroughly. Once the ROV is back on deck with all the precious samples (often in the evening hours) Kathrin takes some pieces of each individual sponge and preserves them for analysis in her home lab. Besides the sponge samples, she also needs water and sediment samples in order to check whether or not the identified bacteria are associated with the respective sponge or simply from ambient water and/or sediment.

Often, several birds can be killed here with one stone as the ROV Kiel6000 can be equipped to collect sponge, water and sediment samples. Faaaaantastic! However, sometimes the available space onboard ROV Kiel6000 is occupied by other pieces of kit so that only sponge samples can be collected. Less fantastic (!), as Kathrin’s work then depends on the successful collection of sediment and water samples with the MUC (Multicorer to recover sediments) and the CTD rosette (conductivity-temperature-pressure [depth] sensors with a rosette of 24 bottles á 20 L), respectively. This means that she has to work long hours as both operations are often carried out at night and the water samples need to be filtrated, too!

As you can see, there’s plenty of work onboard R/V SONNE! We hope with this brief feature you could get an idea of Kathrin’s day-to-day work.

And in the end: Where is the SONNE?

With this in mind,

Your science party of SO254

(Translation by Torben Struve)