This season in Antarctica we will be writing blog posts to share our experiences with you. We will be talking about our science, lab & field work, showing what life is like in Antarctica, and answering questions.

View of the helo pad and sea ice from the NSF Chalet at McMurdo Station. Photo by: Walter Andriuzzi

View of the helo pad and sea ice from the NSF Chalet at McMurdo Station. Photo by: Walter Andriuzzi

But, before we dive in to all that, let’s get introduced!

Who are you?  We work together with a group of scientists who study life on the edge of existence in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica. On the ice we are known as the “Soil Team,” “C507,” (which is our science event number, like an ID number), or the “Wormherders” (we study nematode worms). The team this year includes: Dr. Diana Wall (CSU), Dr. Byron Adams (BYU), Dr. Ross Virginia (Dartmouth), Dr. Jeb Barrett (VT), Dr. Walter Andriuzzi (CSU), Ashley Shaw (CSU), Andy Thompson (BYU), Scott George (BYU), Josh Heward (PolarTrec), and Matt Hedin (VT).For the 2017 field season, both Walter Andriuzzi and Ashley Shaw will be writing these blog posts for our team. Walter is a post doc and Ashley is a PhD student in Diana Wall’s lab at Colorado State University. You can also find some very cool updates on Josh’s blog, Tough Tardigrades.

What are the McMurdo Dry Valleys? The McMurdo Dry Valleys are one of the coldest and windiest places on the planet. There are no vascular plants, no mammals, no birds, and no fish, who call this place home. There can be cyanobacteria mats or moss in moist places. The largest life forms are microscopic animals called nematodes, tardigrades, rotifers, mites, and collembolans. These animals inhabit soil, moss, and algae. But, we’ll talk more about all the life in the dry valleys later.

img_2424

View of the Commonwealth Glacier and Lake Fryxell (on left) from a helicopter in Taylor Valley, Antarctica. Photo by: Ashley Shaw

Who do you work with? We work with the McMurdo Long Term Ecological Research (MCM LTER) project to study the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem of this (very!) cold desert ecosystem. While our group specializes in soil, there are other teams who study streams, lakes, glaciers, climate, microbiology, environmental history, and geochemistry. The MCM LTER is part of the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program. The LTER program is funded by the US National Science Foundation. The aim of this program is to gather long-term data and to study ecological processes that take place over long time scales (10s to 100s of years). Core research areas of this program include: 1) primary production, 2) population studies, 3) movement of organic matter (decomposition and transfer of materials), 4) movement of inorganic matter (e.g., nitrogen, phosphorus), and 5) disturbance patterns. The MCM LTER was begun in 1993 and is one of 26 LTER sites. These sites cover a variety of ecosystems including grasslands, forests, marine, and desert sites. While most of the ecosystems are in the continental U.S., there are two Arctic, several coastal and marine sites, and one other Antarctic site.

Diana Wall talking with Josh Heward, Scott George and Ashley Shaw about nematodes! Photo by: Walter Andriuzzi

Diana Wall talking with Josh Heward, Scott George and Ashley Shaw about nematodes! Photo by: Walter Andriuzzi

You study soil? I thought Antarctica was just a bunch of ice! The McMurdo Dry Valleys are the largest ice-free area in Antarctica. The mountains surrounding the valleys block the glacier ice, keeping the East Antarctic Ice Sheet from filling the valleys. Strong winds, called katabatic winds also contribute to this unique landscape.

Written by: Ashley Shaw

 

Advertisements