The community in McMurdo is pretty excited about science. After all, we’re all here to get science done in one way or another – either by supporting science activities or performing actual data collection. The McMurdo community loves to know what scientists are working on and what they are finding out. So, each week there is an organized Sunday Science Lecture. It’s held in the Galley and the whole station is invited to attend. This event is well loved and draws a big crowd.

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Jeb Barrett (left) and Byron Adams (right) answer questions during the Sunday Science Lecture. This event is held weekly in the Galley. Photo by: Ashley Shaw

 

This past Sunday was a special Science Lecture, because it was given by some of our own teammates, Jeb Barrett and Byron Adams. Together, they gave a great talk about the major findings of the McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER, the ecology of the Dry Valleys and how this ecology has been changing over the past 25 years. The crowd was excited to learn about the nematodes, tardigrades, and rotifers that live in the valleys. Plus Jeb and Byron showed some cool videos of these awesome animals.

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A female Eudorylaimus – one of the nematodes that lives in the Dry Valleys. Byron explained how certain nematodes (including this one), prefer wetter habitats. Photo by: Ashley Shaw

Jeb explained that due to increasing solar radiation and warmer temperatures, there has been increased melt from the glaciers, which has caused lake levels in the valley to rise. This increased melt affects the soil chemistry, moving salts and fine sediments across the landscape and altering soil nutrients. The increased melt and rising lake levels also has had an impact on science logistics. Structures from the permanent Fryxell camp have had to be moved away from the lake to avoid being engulfed by the rising waters of Lake Fryxell!

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Increased melt water from glaciers flows through streams into the lake. Photo by: Ashley Shaw

Did you know that plants and animals (even dinosaurs!) used to live on the land that is now Antarctica? After the Pleistocene, the only animals that survived and still live in terrestrial Antarctica today are the very small ones: nematodes, tardigrades, rotifers, collembola, and mites. It’s pretty amazing that these animals survive the harsh conditions of Antarctica – cold, dry, dark (for half of the year), UV radiation (thanks, ozone hole), and salt. Byron told us about how the LTER is finding that the soil community is affected by increased moisture caused by melt from glaciers and permafrost.

 

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Byron explains soil ecology of the dry valleys. Photo by: Ashley Shaw

After the talk, the crowd had lots of questions for Jeb and Byron. People wanted to know more about how nematodes and other animals survive in Antarctica (they go into a dormant state called anhydrobiosis when times get tough) and how long they live for (we aren’t sure, but at least decades!). They also were curious about how salty the soils are (pretty salty!) and where the carbon that fuels the foodweb comes from (lake and stream algae, cyanobacteria, and other maybe unknown sources). Overall, the talk was informative, entertaining, and really got people jazzed up about the McMurdo LTER science! Way to go, Jeb and Byron!

Written by: Ashley Shaw

 

 

 

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