taylor valley, antarctica

Taylor Valley, Antarctica

Diana, Ross, Martijn, Ashley, Ruth, and Sabrina traveled to Taylor Valley to apply scheduled treatments to the Biotic Effects Experiment (BEE) plots. The  BEE plots are located at 3 places in Taylor Valley: near Lake Fryxell at F6, near Lake Bonney, and near Lake Hoare. All of the BEE plots were established during the 1999-2000 season, and are sampled every few years. We are not sampling these plots this year, as that sampling was just completed last field season (to read about sampling the BEE plots click here).

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Helicopter leaving after dropping our team off at F6 camp, Taylor Valley, Antarctica.


Lake Fryxell in the foreground, with the Commonwealth Glacier behind in Taylor Valley, Antarctica.

There are four different treatments at the BEE plots:

  1. Control (no treatment)
  2. Soil warming with chamber
  3. Water added
  4. Soil warming and water added

Martijn carries the supplies that we’ll need to the field site near Lake Bonney!

This experiment allows us to explore the Antarctic soil ecosystem’s response to environmental change. We expect that soil temperature and moisture will increase in the future due to climate change. With the BEE, we can study the effect of these changes on the soil animals in the dry valleys and our experiment will help predict how the soil animals will respond to warmer and wetter soil in the future. The design of the BEE also shows how each of these climate variables may affect the soil animals alone, without the influence of the other variable. This means we can determine what proportion of the change may be due to the effects of the increased temperature by itself, or the extra water.

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Ashley (left) and Martijn (right) add water to the water addition plots at the BEE site. The chambers in the picture warm the soil by trapping solar heat and blocking wind. They’re made of nearly-clear fiberglass that helps to trap heat from the sun in the area beneath the cone, and in this way we can leave the cones tightly strapped down to stakes on the plots year-round and let the sun do all of the work for us.

For the treatments, the soil warming is continuous (with the use of the soil warming chamber, see photo above) during the austral summer;  however, we need to apply water to the ‘water added’ plots each year to maintain increased soil moisture for those treatments. Adding water is pretty straightforward. We added 5.6 liters of water to each ‘water added’ plot. We did this using jugs (pre-marked for measuring the appropriate amount of water) and watering spouts to help distribute the water softly and evenly. As Diana described to us, it feels much like “watering your garden.”

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Ross explains the Biotic Effects Experiment to Ruth near Lake Fryxell.

Coming up next: sampling the new P3 experiment, and working in the lab to extract, identify, and count nematodes!

Can’t wait for more? Here’s a beautiful, female Scottnema lindsayae to hold you over until next time!!

Written by: Ashley Shaw

Female Scottnema