Sunday, November 13, 2016

The 2016-2017 field season is beginning!

It's beginning. Scientists from the McMurdo Dry Valleys Long Term Ecological Research ( program are beginning to travel to Christchurch, New Zealand, and then on to McMurdo Station on Ross Island in Antarctica. They will be working hard to collect data about the amazing and mysterious ecosystem in the McMurdo Dry Valleys--possibly the driest ecosystem on earth. The typical field season for ecologists and environmental scientists working in Antarctica spans the austral "spring" and "summer", from now to about February.

I have been to the dry valleys five times, but I'm not going this year. However, I will be coordinating with some of my colleagues so that they can answer questions and post updates from the field. I will also write posts--since I'll have more regular internet access then the scientists in the field--and answer questions based on my past experiences from time to time.

Pictures from Taylor Valley from my last field season are posted below.

Face of the Commonwealth Glacier in Taylor Valley, Antarctica

Headwaters of Aiken stream, which flows into Many Glaciers Pond, in Taylor Valley, Antarctica. The Commonwealth Glacier is in the background.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Ross Sea in Antarctica is now officially a marine sancturary!

This is great news!

See a story on the new marine sanctuary on npr here: link

McMurdo Station, the main hub of U.S. research activity in Antarctica is located on Ross Island, which is in the Ross Sea. While the Ross Sea is remote, there is still significant fishing and whaling pressure that is affecting the marine ecosystem. My understanding is that these activities violate the Antarctic Treaty, or at least the spirit of the treaty. However, the fishing boats are often from countries that have not signed onto the treaty, or the fisherman may be rogue actors in a remote area that is just really hard to police.

What are the consequences of the Ross Sea being designated a marine sanctuary? Now some of the countries where Antarctic fisherman have been coming from have endorsed the marine sanctuary, maybe their governments are recognizing the value of conservation of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. Further, these countries (e.g., China) are investing more in Antarctic research at the national level, which seems to indicate that their governments are indeed buying into the value of Antarctic science. I sure hope this is the case! It is always great to see our science colleagues from other countries getting more support from their national programs.