Wow! Talk about a busy day. Today began with a lot of interesting information about photography and taking good pictures for journaling. Teacher Bill Schmoker gave us some excellent tips about taking good photos to tell a story. Have you ever thought about being a photographer or using photographs to tell a story?
Betsy is a PolarTREC teacher and an excellent mentor to this year's group.
Then, we went on to talk about using video. I think that creating, shooting, editing, and publishing a video is such a cool process. It takes a lot of time, but when it is done well, it can be a really powerful product. I have a lot of new respect for videographers and others involved in making movies.
Museum of the North
Then, we were off to the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska...
Just a reminder of where we are...carved into the ice.
Today was focused mainly on creating journals for the PolarTREC web site. I am really impressed with the ability of this year's PolarTREC teachers. I strongly encourage you to check out all of this year's participants. In particular, there are two PolarTREC teachers preparing to go out to the field in the next two weeks. Check out their expeditions by clicking the links below!
World Ice Art Championships
In the evening, we went over to the World Ice Art Championships. The carvings are huge! They are beautiful works of art and I was especially pleased to see how many students were submitting entries in the competition. All in all, it was an incredibly fun night!
Check out this dragon! Impressive....
Fairbanks, I'm back...
Well, it's been a bit of a journey to get here. Two car rides, three flights, four time zones and about 60 degrees cooler. I left Delaware Friday evening at 6 PM and arrived in Fairbanks, Alaska on Sunday morning at 1 AM.
This was all the help I got when packing!
Here's a quick summary of the adventure thus far:
Depart Delaware for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (100 miles)
Fly from Philadelphia to Minneapolis, Minnesota (1,100 miles)
Fly from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Anchorage, Alaska (3,000 miles)
Fly from Anchorage, Alaska to Fairbanks, Alaska (300 miles)
How clever is this bear statue in the airport?
This Snoopy statue made me smile in Minneapolis.
Check out this moose statue in the Minneapolis airport!
What are you doing back in Fairbanks?
If you measured our expedition based on achievements alone, we had an incredibly successful eight weeks together. In that short time, our team accomplished:
Thousands of Worms Collected
Worm DNA collected and prepared for analysis
Live worm cultures established
Temperature Experiments Begun
Live worm culture shipped and established back in the lab in Delaware
Over 100 dives logged underwater
More than 10,000 photos taken above the ice
More than 300 underwater photos
Hundreds of minutes of underwater video
Over 70 journals with over 500 photos
22 on-line sessions with students & teachers
We collected many worms! (Photo courtesy of Annamarie Pasqualone)
What is much more difficult to quantify will be the lasting effects of this experience. I knew coming into this...
Departing McMurdo Station is usually a day of mixed emotions. Some people are thrilled to be leaving. Often, they are thinking of the family and friends that they are returning to. Others are sad to be leaving. Often, they are thinking of the family and friends that they are leaving behind on the ice.
For me, it's both. I am really excited to be returning to my family and my students. I am also really sad to be leaving my friends who remain on the ice. They will continue on the important scientific work, and continue making new memories without me. Just as with Dr. Stacy Kim and Dr. Adam Marsh before me, it is a bittersweet parting. Soon after my departure, Stephanie and Annamarie will leave the ice, and so will conclude our field work.
One thing I will...
Despite how smooth our journals may have seemed to you... As with any expedition, things didn't always run smoothly. Here are a few of our more humorous situations from the 2011 field season.
Sea Ice Conditions
This was the first year in about a decade where all of the sea ice cleared out in front of McMurdo Station. As a result, there was a lot of hesitation and uncertainty when we began to travel out on the sea ice. There was a lot of concern about where to travel and safety around sea ice cracks. In fact, the situation was still on-going as we prepare to leave the ice. We spent countless hours driving around sea ice cracks. Fortunately, we never fell into any...
This was a year of many sea ice cracks. There was a lot of driving around them.
It's really hard to put into words the experiences we shared under the ice. The 2011 diving season had some amazing moments for our group. There are too many to try to name, so I'll just leave the diving with a few amazing pictures from my last dive and a couple of accomplishments from our diving group.
A beautiful photo of the underwater landscape, with the ice overhead and the sea floor covered. (Photo courtesy of Steve Rupp)
We saw lots of Weddell seals active in the shallow water on our last dive. (Photo courtesy of Steve Rupp)
We saw this amazing sea star moving with tube feet exposed on our last dive. (Photo courtesy of Steve Rupp)
Another Weddell seal swimming around, with the ice in the background. (Photo courtesy of Steve Rupp)
Saving the Best for Last
For my last two Antarctic dives, Rob Robbins and Steve Rupp arranged for a new hole to be drilled at a dive site known as Turtle Rock. While I knew it would make for some memorable diving, I didn't know just how memorable!
Meet the Antarctic Octopus
Octopus are classified in the class known as "Cephalopoda", meaning "head-foot". This is a very accurate description for an animal that is basically one large head (mantle) and eight tentacles serving as feet. They are invertebrates, having no backbone and almost entirely soft bodies. In fact, the only hard part on most octopus are their beak-like mouth, located in the center of their underside.
Mike found this octopus and held it up. (Photo courtesy of Steve Rupp)
We organize organisms into...
Given the limited time I have remaining at McMurdo, it seemed wise to take a look at a few of the other work centers around the station. Today, I received three great tours of the Power, Water, and Wastewater plants.
We rely on power for everything here in McMurdo - from lights to heat, conducting the science, to getting a hot shower. The Power Plant is an amazing place at McMurdo Station, and it runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. As Chris (our fabulous tour guide) said, "If we're doing our job well, you never know we're hear. But when something goes wrong, everyone realizes how important we are." McMurdo Station uses a series of large diesel Caterpillar generators to provide power to every building on the station.
This is the power plant monitoring...
What do you do for fun?
A lot of students have been asking what we do for fun down here at McMurdo Station. Here's a quick list of fun activites that we have completed:
Play boardgames (Mike and Stephanie even discovered a boardgame from 1962)
Go to talks about science or travels
Chat in the coffeehouse
Hike up Observation Hill
Hike down to Hut Point
Go to the gym
Play basketball or soccer in the big gym
Climb on the indoor climbing wall
Here's another fun activity that is unique to McMurdo Station.
Another recent addition to the McMurdo community went in today. Called the Observation Tube, or Ob Tube, this contraption is basically a sealed metal tube that we insert through the ice. People from around McMurdo are allowed to go down the tube. In the...
It Seems Like They're Everywhere
Two of the most abundant organisms I've seen in McMurdo Sound are sea stars and sea urchins. On our recent dives, it seems that they are everywhere. They are so commonplace that it's easy to forget what amazing animals they are and how they have adapted to the Antarctic benthic habitat.
Odontaster and Sterechinus often compete for food, and so we find them in the same habitat. (Photo courtesy of Adam Marsh)
Sea urchins and sea stars are related organisms, found in the phylum Echinodermata. As a result they share many similarities and also some important differences. Dr. Marsh has worked with both of these species in the past. They are fascinating animals and we have a lot of respect for the roles they play in the ecosystem.
It's been really hard over the last few days to say goodbye to some of our team members. They have gone back to their families and on to new adventures. Though we continue on here at McMurdo, many of our thoughts, laughs, and stories involve our friends who are now so many miles away.
Dr. Adam Marsh
Dr. Marsh has returned to his family and his work at the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment in Lewes, Delaware. Although he is not here, he continues to be in contact with us, helping us even from so far away. I have never met an easier person to get along with or work with. Adam has been incredibly generous with his time, energy, and talent. He has shared so many lessons both about research, diving, the Antarctic, and life in general. We owe him a great deal for...
Soaking it up
One of the most important organisms to the McMurdo Sound benthic (bottom-dwelling) community is the sea sponge. They are everywhere and amazing to see on every dive.
Sea sponges are found almost everywhere in McMurdo Sound. They are a very important part of the ecosystem. (Photo courtesy of Adam Marsh)
The Wonderful World of Sponges
Sponges come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes. It's really hard to talk about such a diverse group of organisms.
Some scientists believe that bright colors might be in response to ultraviolet light. (Photo courtesy of Adam Marsh)
Sea sponges also come in a variety of shapes. (Photo courtesy of Adam Marsh)
Sea sponges come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. (Photo courtesy of Adam Marsh)
I've mentioned this a hundred times already, but after yesterday's dive, it's worth saying again. It's been a really active year for seal sightings.
Meet the Weddell Seal
The Weddell Seal is a relatively large and abundant seal that is distributed around Antarctica. It can be over 9 feet long and weigh up to 1100 pounds. There are estimated to be 800,000 Weddell seals in the population. Weddell seals prefer to live under fast ice (ice held fast to the land), and that helps them avoid the bigger predators found at the ice edge.
Weddell seals are beautiful and graceful in the water. They make us divers feel rather goofy. (Photo courtesy of Steve Rupp)
We organize organisms into different groups based on similarities and differences with other...
Theodore and his team have had a lot of very "cool" experiences here at McMurdo, but there's one thing he's been dying to try...
Today, Theodore got a special opportunity to join Dr. Marsh on his final dive of the 2011 season.
First, Theodore had to clear the dive hole of ice.
Theodore had to clear out all the ice from the dive hole.
Next, he had to prepare his dive gear.
Theodore inspects the dive gear. (Photo courtesy of Annamarie Pasqualone)
Then, he had to learn how to work the sampling gear and the camera.
Theodore, learning the sampling equipment.
Theodore, familiarizing himself with the underwater camera.
Theodore had to put on his dive gear along with Adam, Stacy, and Mike.
Stacy and Theodore preparing for the dive.
Dr. Marsh gives Theodore...
##The Way to End a Dive
At the end of today's dive, we observed a large jellyfish drifting towards us. To picture it in your mind, it was a little larger than a basketball. With cameras at the ready, we had a beautiful encounter with one of Antarctica's most graceful drifters.
One species of Antarctic jellyfish made an appearance at the end of our dive. (Photo courtesy of Adam Marsh)
Meet the Antarctic Jellyfish
Jellyfish are easily recognizable organisms that are composed of two skin layers with a jelly-like substance in between. They have radial symmetry, with their mouths in the center and surrounded by tentacles. Tentacles can be various sizes, and are used to capture prey.
We organize organisms into different groups based on similarities and differences with...
Biological classification is the science of organizing organisms on this planet into groups. The early work on biological classification began with many different scientists all the way back to Medieval times. Today's classification largely started with the work of Carolus Linnaeus in the 1730s.
Since then, scientists have been hard at work and reworking the system for classifying living organisms on this planet. For the most part, scientists look for similarities between organisms when arranging them in the same group. Early on this involved looking at the physical structures/appearances of organisms. This was built upon by scientists who studied evolution, like Charles Darwin. Today, DNA and molecular genetics have been used to compare organisms for classification...
Back in the Lab
After the team returns from the dive with Dr. Stacy Kim's sampling. There is much work to be done. The process breaks down to three major steps:
Preservation of the cores
Still photo organization and analysis
Video organization and analysis
Preserving the Cores
First, we need to remember that Stacy is interested in studying the organisms that live in the sediment. She does not need all of that sediment, and so we use the same device (called a sieve) that Stephanie and Annamarie used to find the Capitella. Remember, a sieve separates the larger organisms from the tiny sediment particles.
Stacy unloads the samples from the core rack. Why do you think we keep it in the cooler?
Stacy empties the cores onto the sieve.
The cores gets sieved, so that all the mud is...
Underwater with Dr. Stacy Kim
Yesterday, I mentioned that we have been doing a lot of diving over the last week. Many of those dives have focused on helping Dr. Stacy Kim and her work. Stacy has been part of a long term project, looking at how benthic (bottom) communities are different around McMurdo Station. Every year for about a little over a decade, Stacy or a member of her team has been diving at the same sites in 60 feet of water. Some of those sites are close to the human impact zone around McMurdo and a few of those sites are farther away.
At each dive site, Stacy performs four tasks underwater. With multiple divers (Adam and Mike), these tasks can be split up and shared. Here's a look at one of Stacy's typical collection days.
Loading the Down-Line
More Great Diving
As we approach the dates for the departures of some of our team members, we have been packing in some really good and productive dives. Dr. Marsh will be leaving us in a few days and while we are really sad to see him depart the ice, we know that he and his family are excited to be reuniting. The dives that we have shared together have been really special.
Here are some of the organisms that we've been seeing on the dives. Stacy and Adam have shared a lot with me about the interesting organisms that call McMurdo Sound their home and I can't wait to use the next two weeks of journals to share that information with all of you.
Sea Stars are classified as "Echinoderms". This is a really interesting group and a very common one here in McMurdo Sound. There...
Update from Ms. W.
One member of Theodore's team that has been hard at work recently is Ms. W. Ms. W. called her home school today, Nash Primary School, in Weymouth, Massachusetts. It was a great opportunity to share some of the major events that have happened here in Antarctica related to three key "W" words: Weather, Water, and Worms.
Miss W. showed all the boys and girls all of her work with the ECW gear. If you haven't read our journal entry on ECW gear, check it out by clicking here.
Ms. W. hasn't been just hanging around.
Ms. W. knows the importance of dressing for the weather.
Ms. W. also shared how we travel across the ice and snow in all types of weather using our Pisten Bully. Stephanie and Annamarie have been showing Ms. W. how to be a Pisten Bully Pro.
##What are organisms adapting to?
A question we've been receiving from students is: "Okay I get the idea of adaptations, but why do adaptations occur?" This is a great question and a major component of Dr. Marsh, Stephanie, and Annamarie's work. Let's take a look at some of the factors that might result in adaptations.
Abiotic Factors is the fancy way to say all of the non-living parts of the environment. Examples include temperature, water, sunlight, air, rocks, sand, mud, salinity, pH, and humidity. Organisms must have ways for dealing with changes in abiotic factors. For example, what happens when there is a change in temperature? What happens when there is a lack of sunlight?
Here are some abiotic factors (rock and water) and some instruments used to measure...
This is my house...
I have been telling you that it has been an active year for Weddell seals. Well, today took the cake. As we pulled up to our dive hut, I noticed that there was something lumpy and gray inside where there should have been blank floor.
When I opened the door, I found this....
When I opened the door, here's what I found… (Photo courtesy of Kimberly Williams)
Weddell seals don't have any land predators here, so they are not really afraid of human beings. I guess this particular Weddell thought, "How nice that the humans drilled this hole and have provided me with a heated hut!"
At first, the Weddell seal just laid back down and ignored us. (Photo courtesy of Kimberly Williams)
Needless to say, the seal eventually had enough of us and our funny suits, and slid...
What has everyone else been doing at McMurdo?
Okay, so I hope that you have seen that conducting science at McMurdo is a very busy endeavor. We put in full days and full weeks between drilling holes, diving, collecting, sieving, counting, culturing, and lab work. However, this represents the work of our small team and a few other small teams assisting us. What is everyone else in McMurdo doing?
October 3rd marks the beginning of what is known as "Main Body". This represents the arrival of the main body of scientists and workers who will operate McMurdo Station and conduct all the science during the Antarctic summer. WinFly is usually a very quiet time in terms of science and this year has been no exception. There were only two scientific groups conducting work on the...
As promised, today we have a challenge for you. We have placed three new organisms below. Each organism has several structural adaptations. We will send an Antarctic postcard to anyone who posts a unique structural adaptation that has not yet been posted to the forum. For each organism there is a link to the forum for that organism and your guesses. We can't wait to see what you observe.
Remember, each guess must include the structure and the function (job that structure does).
Sea Urchin (Sterechinus neumayeri)
What structural adaptations do you see on these sea urchins?
What structural adaptations can you see on the sea urchin (the purple organism, not the white one)? (Photo courtesy of Stacy Kim)
Bonus: What behavioral adaptations do you see the sea urchins using in this...
This site is supported by the National Science Foundation under award 0956825. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this site are those of the PIs and coordinating team and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.