Over the past few days, we have been in the field taking full advantage of the small windows of good weather to collect our data and take our samples. And we have had several successful days of fieldwork throughout the last week. Last Saturday, two groups were deployed to two sites in Taylor Valley. One group – Zach, Byron, and Nicoletta (our Italian colleague) – visited Hjorth Hill near the New Harbor site at the mouth of Taylor Valley to set up a moss and lichen study. They went there searching for mosses so that they could help Nicoletta establish some experimental plots. These plots are a continuation of a moss and lichen study that has been set up across Victoria Land, Antarctica. The group had 30 minutes of recon with the helicopter to help them find a good spot for the study. They spotted Hjorth Hill from the air and once on the ground they found that it was full of interesting mosses! Most of the time they were there, the weather was pretty bad, but, luckily, windows of good weather opened up when the helicopter dropped them off and when it came to pick them up.

Check out the video that Byron took of Zach blowing sediment off of the moss beds, revealing a vibrant green carpet underneath. Is the sediment insulating the moss?

Zach and Nicoletta at the Hjorth Hill site. Photo: Byron Adams

Zach and Nicoletta at the Hjorth Hill site. Photo: Byron Adams

The other group – Matt, Ashley, Tandra, and Andy, went to the South side of Lake Bonney to complete treatment of the stoichiometry experimental plots (which you can read about here) and brought back 6 BEE control plots at Bonney. They had a wonderful day in the field, but they are all happy to be finished lugging 25lb jugs of water around! It was snowing while they were there, adding to the chilly ambiance of Antarctic work!

We were surprised to see so much snow covering the valley floor on Saturday. It's a rare sight this late in the season. From this view, you can see Lake Fryxell as we fly up valley. Photo: Ashley Shaw

We were surprised to see so much snow covering the valley floor on Saturday. It’s a rare sight this late in the season. From this view, you can see Lake Fryxell as we fly up valley. Photo: Ashley Shaw

Tandra prepares treatments while Matt applies treatments at Lake Bonney. Photo: Ashley Shaw

Tandra prepares treatments while Matt applies treatments at Lake Bonney. Photo: Ashley Shaw

On Monday, Byron, Ashley, Tandra, and Matt went to the South side of Lake Hoare in Taylor Valley where several of our experiments and sampling plots are located. We took samples from the BEE plots (read about that experiment here) and from the elevational transect (ET) study while Byron serviced the meteorological station.

Life endures! Flipping over rocks at the high elevation site, Ashley finds cyanobacteria that are vibrant green. Growing underneath of the rocks provides some shelter and slightly warmer temperatures, even some light passes through the thin pieces of rock. Photo: Ashley Shaw

Life endures! Flipping over rocks at the high elevation site, Ashley finds cyanobacteria that are vibrant green. Growing underneath of the rocks provides some shelter and slightly warmer temperatures, even some light passes through the thin pieces of rock. Photo: Ashley Shaw

The elevational transect study began in 1993. The purpose of this study is to see how elevation and topography affects soil life and soil properties, and how this changes over time. The number of soil nematodes, rotifers and tardigrades has been measured at 3 elevations (83, 121, and 188m above sea level) every 2-4 years since 1993 along with soil chemistry, moisture, and primary production. This long-term record is very valuable and helps us to monitor how changes (such as increased temperature, solar radiation, and moisture) impact the ecosystem. Additional elevational transect studies were added in Garwood and Miers Valleys in 2012. But more on those newer transects later…

DCIM100GOPRO

View of the low elevation plot. Photo: Ashley Shaw

The elevational transect at the South side of Lake Hoare begins low on the slope near Lake Hoare and near the helo pad where we were dropped off. But to reach the higher elevation sites, one must hike up the steep slope to the south. It’s quite a climb, but the view from the top is a great reward!

View from the top elevation of the ET in Taylor Valley. You can't tell from this picture, but we are way high on the slope! What a hike! Whew! Photo: Ashley Shaw

View from the top elevation of the ET in Taylor Valley. You can’t tell from this picture, but we are way high on the slope! What a hike! Whew! Photo: Ashley Shaw

Written by: Ashley Shaw

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