Data buoy, RV Quest, and plankton under a microscope

Life begins at 30 - L4 anniversary science day

 

14 March 2018 marked the 30th birthday of our weekly sampling at L4. Now, over 1300 time points later, it is a totally different game compared to its modest start with a plankton net, a stainless steel bucket and a thermometer. But small things add up and the round trips to L4 have now covered a total distance the same as circumnavigating the Earth.

On October 2nd we celebrated L4’s thirty years, and the value of time series with a science day here at PML. The 120 who attended were from over 20 different institutes so this was a relaxed opportunity to network and catch up with colleagues past and present, whether over the posters, during our lunchbreak or with a celebratory drink in hand afterwards.
 
Roger Harris’ entertaining presentation charted the development of this time series from its relatively modest origins and funding. Tim Smyth brought it right up-to-date as he described the extended observations, the atmospheric and benthic sampling and the data buoys at the multiple sites that we now know, collectively, as the Western Channel Observatory
 
Multi-decadal time series form a foundation to our understanding of how climate change is affecting life on Earth, and Gregory Beaugrand’s keynote provided some grim reminders of the extreme rapidity of projected temperature increases, as compared to changes already experienced over the previous millennia.
 
The second session wove together the pelagic and benthic time series and how numerical and conceptual models based on the high resolution observations in the Western Channel Observatory have improved our understanding of how shelf systems operate.
 
After a lunch and tour of the newly-refurbished labs and their facilities, the third session provided the context from other time series with talks from observatories in the North and Mediterranean Seas. Finally, the WCO was brought up to date with a selection of talks on its role as a platform for sensor development and relatively recent developments in our understanding of microplastic pollution, atmospheric observations from the Penlee laboratory, and in training the next generation of researchers, via a short film of PhD student activities.
 
A great day and well done L4 – life begins at 30!  

By Angus Atkinson

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