The first place we went is called Mars Oasis. To get there, we flew on a Twin Otter airplane that landed on Utopia Glacier. We camped on the glacier for 6 days. Here’s a picture of the glacier that we landed and camped on. We set up our camp near the dark spots towards the back, where the plane had enough space to land and there were no known crevasses.
Our goal is to collect soil from beneath different types of plant and fungal growth. We want to know how different above-ground organisms influence the microscopic organisms living in the soil. We collected soil from beneath moss, lichens, and algae. We also collected bare soil with no above-ground growth to compare these to. When we extract the bacteria, fungi, and invertebrates (like nematodes and mites), we will find out whether the soil community is more abundant or more diverse under particular types of growth.
|An area of mixed lichen, algae, fungi, and moss growth|
We also traveled to a second field site at Sky Blu. This site is much farther south on the mainland of the continent, and is almost completely covered by ice. The only soil available is from the tops of large mountains that poke through the ice. These mountain tops are called nunataks. We sampled soil from the nunataks as well, so that we can compare how above-ground growth influences soil organisms at multiple sites.
Sky Blu has a permanent camp, so we were able to stay in shelters instead of camping in tents. It was -14°C while we were there. I’ve been traveling with a bear from Mrs. Metcalfe’s class in Phoenix, AZ. Here he is at Sky Blu camp with one of the nunataks in the background.