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AMT back on track after three year hiatus


AMT30 team prior to departure

AMT30 departed from Port Stanley on 21st February 2023 aboard the RRS Discovery for a 38 day voyage back to the UK. This is the first AMT expedition to run since 2019, due to a covid-induced pause.

The ship was home for over six weeks to crew and 26 scientists from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Scottish Association for Marine Science, National Oceanography Centre (NOC) and the Universities of Oxford, Exeter, Liverpool, East Anglia and Heriot Watt. We also welcomed guests from University of Lisbon (Portugal), Michigan State University and NASA (USA), University of Pretoria (South Africa) and CICESE (Mexico).

This research cruise, led by Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) was a highly important expedition for the marine science community as it collects samples along the length of the Atlantic, producing a unique dataset and the opportunity to monitor changes in this expansive and dynamic ocean.

The AMT missions always have a packed science agenda and this year was no exception. Sampling activities included:

  • Carbon chemistry
  • Microbial biodiversity
  • Nutrient distribution
  • Nitrogen fixation
  • Optical properties
  • Oxygen status
  • Gas exchange
  • Aerosol deposition
  • Zooplankton diversity
  • Particle export

NASA once again joined PML scientists to help ‘sea-truth’ their satellite sensors, with AMT providing a unique opportunity to validate and calibrate their optical equipment in the remote ocean, far from human interference.

This year also saw a return of the POGO Special Visiting Fellow for Shipboard Training from the Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education in Ensenada (CICESE), Mexico. The selected Fellow, Yessica Pacheco, spent two weeks at NOC prior to the cruise to join in with preparation and planning. At sea she joined the AMT team in hydrological, bio-optical and ecological observations and after the cruise, and then another month at NOC learning to analyse and interpret the measurements she made.

Dr Andy Rees, Marine Biogeochemist at PML and lead scientist for AMT, commented on the research mission: “AMT is a fantastic opportunity to get marine scientists into the remote ocean gyres and it is one of very few opportunities to do so. AMT30 provides continuation of our measurements since 1995 so we are now getting towards a position where we are able to detect decadal scale changes in this vast ecosystem.”

“Our research activities are key to understanding how biodiversity and biogeochemical cycles function naturally and indicates how they might be influenced by climatic change and ecosystem variability. Whilst our scientific activities are hugely rewarding the most challenging aspect of such a long mission is being away from home and separation from family and friends”.

The AMT dataset, hosted by the British Oceanographic Data Centre, has had over 240,000 downloads and has generated over 380 scientific publications.

Founder of AMT, Prof. Jim Aiken who is an Emeritus Fellow at PML, commented: “As the research programme approaches its 30th year, I am extremely proud that this important dataset continues to grow and provide such vital information to marine scientists around the world, to help improve understanding of the Atlantic Ocean, it’s processes and how it is changing. The co-ordination teams and participants over the years have all contributed to making this valuable scientific programme the success it is and the dedication of the current team in keeping the programme running is most commendable. Long may AMT continue!”.