The most unpredictable part of working in the Antarctic is the weather. Sometimes it’s warm and sunny. Sometimes it’s cold and snowing. Sometimes both happen in the same day! When the weather turns ugly, the helicopters will not fly in or out of McMurdo, so if you are at a field camp and are scheduled to come back to town, you have to wait until the weather clears. Most of us secretly love it when this happens!

After Breana, Karen, Nick and Bishwo sampled the Relict Channel, the weather became unpredictable and helicopter travel was severely limited for safety reasons.
Cloudy Weather at F6

This kind of uncertainty means that we have to be flexible. We didn’t want to sit around in the hut all day. First, we would be bored. Second, we had plenty of supplies and equipment to do more sampling. Third, the hut is very small. There’s not a lot of room to hang out in there! There are only two rooms: a kitchen and a lab. Here, Judit, Nick and Biswho have a cup of tea after a hard day.
F6 Camp

Across from the kitchen you can see members of the Stream Team working in the lab (you can just see Corey through the door, he was discussing an experiment with Ana who is sitting behind the door) and at the computer (Peter was uploading data). That’s all there is to it. It’s not a big hut! You’ve had a full tour!
F6 Hut

As a result, we often have to use whatever space we can find to do our work. Below, Breana sorts algae samples among the dirty supper dishes. Mmmm…. pasta with a side of preserved algal samples. Doesn’t THAT sound good?
The Only Table

To take advantage of our time at F6 camp, our team put together another experiment to sample the algal mats (just like we did with the relict channel) over a period of 24 hours. You see, the flow of water in the stream channel changes throughout the day, so sometimes algal mats are exposed to the air, like these black algal mats next to Karen,
Karen
but sometimes they are underwater. Breana wanted to know if the animals living in the algal mats and the sediment below are affected by this drastic change. Can you imagine what that would be like? Can you think of other places where this might happen?

So Breana, Karen, Nick and Bishwo decided to sample the stream every 4 hours, starting just before peak flow. They split into teams to tackle the five sites Breana had selected earlier in the day. Karen and Breana already had a lot of practice sampling algae, but Nick and Bishwo had to learn how to do it. Being scientists means listening very carefully and asking questions when you are confused. It’s okay to be confused, science is about finding answers!
Learning to Sample Algae

We had to assemble 70 bags for sampling algae and 70 bags for sampling sediment. And they had to be arranged by site and by time of day. Whenever we design an experiment we have to make sure that we stay very organized, otherwise you could end up doing a lot of work for nothing. Data is useless if it doesn’t make any sense! So, Bishwo found an empty chair in the hut and started labeling bags. Lots of bags.
Biswho Helps

And Karen wrote out a schedule for us, so we would all know who was doing what and when they were doing it. This way we knew who had to get out of their nice warm sleeping bag to trudge through the cold stream and get the algae!
Diel Schedule

We stored the samples under the hut to keep them cold until we got back to the lab several days later. These samples have already been very exciting. There are several species of tardigrade we have not seen before, as well as some unusual nematode specimens. Uffe will upload some pictures and video soon of the tardigrades he has found in these samples!

And to think, we were just stuck out there!

Advertisements