Net Benefits

Log from One Ten East


The RV Investigator is currently undertaking oceanographic research along the 110°E meridian off Western Australia as part of the second International Indian Ocean Expedition. The voyage is led by Professor Lynnath Beckley of Murdoch University and the research is supported by a grant of sea time on RV Investigator from the CSIRO Marine National Facility.


Date: May 21, 2019 Time: 1200 AWST
Latitude: 33.5°S Longitude: 110°E
Wind direction: WSW Wind speed: 12 knots
Swell direction: WSW Depth: 2644 m
Air temperature: 15.2°C Sea temperature: 18.2 °C
Notes: The wind is calming and the sky clearing as RV Investigator traverses the Naturaliste Plateau. The scientists are happy as the sample jars are being dutifully labelled and filled.


Net Benefits

By Prof Lynnath Beckley


The word plankton is derived from the Greek word ‘planktos’ meaning drifter. Planktonic organisms generally drift in the ocean but some can undertake limited swimming to achieve vertical migration from the depths towards the surface to feed at night.

On our voyage with the RV Investigator, along the 110°E meridian in the south-east Indian Ocean, in addition to filtering very tiny organisms from water samples, we are using a wide variety of nets to capture plankton. These range from a tiny net with 20-micron mesh to catch phytoplankton to a large net with 1000-micron (=1 mm) mesh to catch larger zooplankton like krill, and the larvae of fish and rock lobsters.

One of the most historically significant nets we are using is the Indian Ocean Standard Net. We have a specially built replica of the original nets deployed by 14 different ships during the first Indian Ocean Expedition in the 1960s to compare the biomass (weight) of zooplankton in the surface 200m of the water column across the ocean basin. We are replicating these vertical hauls at the same time of the year and locations along the 110°E meridian to ascertain if there are any major differences in the biomass and composition of the zooplankton between the two voyages.


The Indian Ocean Standard Net (IOSN) is the one of the original nets used in the International Indian Ocean Expedition. This one used on the IIOE-2 is a replica allowing for interesting comparisons across the 60 years or so since the first voyage. Photo: Micheline Jenner.

Dr David Tranter, formerly of CSIRO, and now well-retired, led the Australian plankton research during the first expedition and was responsible for numerous publications revealing the composition and abundance of zooplankton in the south-east Indian Ocean. He and his wife, Helen, even went to live in India for a while to train scientists at the Indian Ocean Biological Centre to process and identify the over 2000 zooplankton samples that were collected by nine countries during the first expedition.

Other equipment that is particularly useful for elucidating plankton is the EZ multiple opening and closing net. This consists of ten 500-micron nets in a big frame and they are electronically opened and closed at different depths in the ocean to sample the zooplankton. This enables comparison of the depths that various zooplankton reside during the day and night and allows us to quantify zooplankton abundance in different depth zones.

The EZ net being deployed from the A-frame of RV Investigator on the aft deck by the experienced deck crew. The EZ net comprises a rectangular frame holding ten nets, each of which are closed remotely at various depths. Photo: Micheline Jenner.


Opening and closing the EZ net at different depth strata are Ian McRobert, Prof Lynnath Beckley (Murdoch University) and Pilar Olivar (IMS, Barcelona) in the Operations Room on board RV Investigator. Photo: Micheline Jenner.


The camera view looking into the EZ net shows the mechanism for obtaining fishes from different strata. In the centre of the image, the “bar” across the centre is one of the frames of one of the nets. Photo: Micheline Jenner.

Overall, from the range of nets we are using (and a lot of microscope work), we can quantify zooplankton in the south-east Indian Ocean, process this information in food web analyses and include the data in models of ocean functioning.


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