Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Get ready... Get set...

It’s almost time to start our next field season! Our field season begins when we fly south on February 18. That’s just a couple of weeks away!

This year, we will complete our “latitudinal gradient” along the Antarctic Peninsula. For this project, we are exploring the diversity of soil biological communities along the entire Antarctic Peninsula. We will discover what species live in all of the places we visit. We will also compare who lives at each site with the plants and soil chemistry to understand how the environment influences the soil biology. That way, we can predict what will happen to the soil biology as the environment changes.

The entire latitudinal gradient will cover 10-12 sites along the entire length of the Peninsula. Last year, we were based at Rothera Station, about halfway down the Peninsula, to visit the southern sites. This year, we will visit the northern half of the Peninsula. Here’s our plan:

The red tacks are islands we definitely plan to sample. The yellow tacks are places we hope to sample if we have time. But, of course, with Antarctic field work, the plan can always change at the last minute if the weather doesn’t cooperate!

This season will be very exciting for me, because I’ve actually never been this far north in Antarctica! I’m usually much further south where conditions are harsher, but the northern part of the Peninsula looks more like a lush tundra, rather than a polar desert. I will see more wildlife than I have been able to see before, and that will be very fun!

This is also the first year that our research will be based on the research vessel. Normally, marine scientists work on the ships so that they can sample ocean water, and we soil ecologists work from field camps on land. But the ship is the best way for us to travel between the islands, so we’ll be living like marine scientists for a season! We’ll be traveling and working on a vessel called the Laurence M. Gould, which is named after a geologist that traveled to Antarctica back in the 1929. You can read all about the ship here, here, and here.

So, on the 18th, I begin my journey by flying to Punta Arenas, Chile. I’m flying down with one of my students, Connor. In Punta Arenas, we will meet up with the rest of our research team: Uffe (who you might remember from last year), Dave, and Kelli. I’ll keep you posted!