Human Impacts in Antarctica 2011


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Two Expeditions! Michelle Brown not only worked with researchers in McMurdo but she also worked with a team of researchers looking at space weather at the South Pole! You can learn more about her second expedition here.

What Are They Doing?

Humans have occupied the McMurdo Sound for over a hundred years. Early visitors had little impact on the region, but starting in the late 1950’s year-round, permanent buildings were established at McMurdo Station. Over the years thousands of humans have visited this area and have changed the landscape. Under its obligations to the Antarctic Treaty, the United States maintains a long-term monitoring program designed to track the environmental conditions in and around the station.

Each year, the research team conducts environmental monitoring and chemical, physical, and biological sampling in and around McMurdo Station. They collect samples from both marine and terrestrial habitats as measures of human impact. They take the samples back to the lab to look for contaminants.

The results of this research help document and minimize the impacts of future science and support operations in Antarctica. This information can be used to inform management decisions in and around McMurdo Station to help preserve the unique Antarctic environment.

Learn more about this project by visiting the official project website.

Where Are They?

Crary Lab at McMurdo, AntarcticaCrary Lab at McMurdo, Antarctica

The research team was based out of Crary Laboratory at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. McMurdo is located at the southern tip of Ross Island on the shore of McMurdo Sound. During the summer research season, McMurdo hosts the largest community in Antarctica, supporting up to 1,200 people. The team made day trips by foot and truck from McMurdo Station to their various marine and land sampling sites.


Packing up to go home
Leaving McMurdo Today I packed up my bags to head to the South Pole, and then on to the AGO site I will be working with. My McMurdo team also packed up their bags, but they are heading back home...
Cross at Ob Hill
Trekking to Ob Hill The end of my time at McMurdo is fast approaching, yet I have managed to hike up to Ob Hill--one of my goals during my visit. It is a 750 feet climb to the top of Ob Hill and it...
Michelle on the snowmobile
Visit to Shackleton's Hut Cancelled Sadly, our visit to Shackleton's hut on Cape Royds was cancelled today. We have been trying to get to Cape Royds to collect control samples for three days now,...
Shackleton and his men
Going to Cape Royds Our research team has been trying to get to Cape Royds to collect control samples, however poor weather has kept us from leaving. Hopefully we will make it there tomorrow!...
Adelie penguin
All about Adelies Yesterday I spent the afternoon at an Adelie penguin rookery at Cape Byrd. Adelie penguins are smaller than most penguins. They are approximately 18 - 30 inches tall and...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

Dates: 6 November 2011 to 12 December 2011
Location: McMurdo Station

Meet the Team

Michelle Brown's picture
O. Henry Middle School
Austin, TX
United States

As a child, Michelle Brown never imagined that she would ever be working with scientists. She was a science naysayer until her junior year at Northeastern University, where she was well into a Bachelor's in English Literature. However, Ms. Brown fell in love with science on a geology field trip to the volcanoes and glaciers of Iceland, and has been learning about science ever since. Ms. Brown received her Master's in Science Education from the University of Texas at Austin in 2006, while at the same time discovering a passion for sedimentology. She remained in Austin, and teaches 6th and 7th grade science at O. Henry Middle School.

Mahlon Kennicutt II's picture
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX
United States

Mahlon "Chuck" Kennicutt's research interests include environmental chemistry and organic geochemistry. His current research investigates the patterns of human disturbance at McMurdo Station. He has spent more than 575 days at sea and has deployed to Antarctica six times. Dr. Kennicutt serves as leader of the Sustainable Coastal Margins Program and is the United States delegate to, and the Vice President for, Scientific Affairs (USA) of the Scientific Committee of Antarctica Research (SCAR).

Andrew Klein's picture
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX
United States

Andrew Klein is an associate professor in the Department of Geography at Texas A&M University. He received a B.A. from Macalester College and a Ph.D. in Geological Sciences from Cornell University. His current research interests lie in the application of remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS) techniques to studying the cryosphere and the impact of humans in and around McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

Terry Palmer's picture
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi, TX
United States
Stephen Sweet's picture
Texas A&M University
College Station, TX
United States

Stephen Sweet is a geochemist from the Geochemical and Environmental Research Group at Texas A&M University. His research interests have focused on environmental monitoring and assessment. He has participated in a number of scientific research programs in Antarctica, with seven deployments to both the Antarctic Peninsula and Ross Island. Dr. Sweet has been involved with the project investigating the spatial and temporal patterns of human disturbance at McMurdo Station for the past seven years.