Dry Valleys Ecosystem Study

What Are They Doing?

This small boat attached to ropes and a pulley system is used to ferry people and equipment across the moat to the lake ice. Photo by Joshua Heward. This small boat attached to ropes and a pulley system is used to ferry people and equipment across the moat to the lake ice. Photo by Joshua Heward. The McMurdo Dry Valleys Long-Term Ecological Research (MCM LTER) Program is an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary study of the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in an ice-free region of Antarctica. MCM joined the National Science Foundation's LTER Network in 1993 and is funded through the Office of Polar Programs in six year funding periods. The McMurdo Dry Valleys (77°30'S 163°00'E) on the shore of McMurdo Sound, 2,200 miles (3,500 km) due south of New Zealand, form the largest relatively ice-free area (approximately 4,800 sq km) on the Antarctic continent. These ice-free areas of Antarctica display a sharp contrast to most other ecosystems in the world, which exist under far more moderate environmental conditions. The perennially ice-covered lakes, ephemeral streams and extensive areas of exposed soil within the McMurdo Dry Valleys are subject to low temperatures, limited precipitation and salt accumulation. The dry valleys represent a region where life approaches its environmental limits, and is an end-member in the spectrum of environments included in the LTER Network. The overarching goal of MCM LTER research is to document and understand how ecosystems respond to environmental changes.

Where Are They?

A tent in front of Canada Glacier at Lake Hoare Camp in Taylor Valley, Antarctica. Photo by Joshua HewardA tent in front of Canada Glacier at Lake Hoare Camp in Taylor Valley, Antarctica. Photo by Joshua Heward We are based out of McMurdo Station and spend time between the Crary Laboratory and the field camps in Taylor Valley. The field camps include F6 camp, Fryxell camp, and Hoare camp.

The McMurdo Dry Valleys are located on the western coast of McMurdo Sound and form the largest relatively ice-free area on the Antarctic continent. The perennially ice-covered lakes, frozen alpine glaciers, and extensive areas of exposed soil and permafrost within the McMurdo Dry Valleys are subject to low temperatures, limited snowfall, and salt accumulation.

Expedition Map

Project Information

Dates: 27 December 2018 to 7 February 2019
Location: McMurdo Station and Dry Valleys, Antarctica
Project Funded Title: LTER: Ecosystem Response to Amplified Landscape Connectivity in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica

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Meet the Team

Kevin Dickerson's picture
American Fork Junior High School
Pleasant Grove, UT
United States

Kevin Dickerson teaches Biology and Earth Science at American Fork Junior High School in American Fork, Utah, where he helps his students excel in the Inquiry Learning processes in science. Kevin received his B.S. Biology Composite degree from Brigham Young University. Kevin then attended Grand Canyon University where he received his M.A. in Educational Technology. Kevin has been involved with the Polar ICE program helping his students develop their inquiry learning skills from Polar researchers. In addition to teaching, Kevin likes to mountain bike, hunt, climb (rock and ice), bee keep, which are all activities he does with his family. He is a Flight Paramedic and member of his local Search and Rescue team.

Byron Adams's picture
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT
United States

Byron is an evolutionary ecologist in the Department of Biology at Brigham Young University where he teaches Biology, Molecular Biology, and Evolutionary Biology classes. Byron’s approach to understanding biology involves inferring evolutionary and ecological processes from patterns in nature. His most recent projects involve fieldwork in Antarctica, where he and his colleagues on the McMurdo Long Term Ecological Research project are studying the relationship between biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and climate change. Byron gets stoked about science education and loves interacting with K-12 students and teachers. When he’s not freezing his butt off in the McMurdo Dry Valleys or southern Transantarctic Mountains, he likes spending time with his family and friends in Utah’s wild places.

Mike Gooseff's picture
University of Colorado, Boulder
Boulder, CO
United States

Dr. Gooseff's research focuses on the characterization and numerical simulation of hydrologic processes and associated biogeochemical cycling. Much of my past and current research has included simulation of introduced and natural tracer transport. The locations of my research projects include polar regions (arctic Alaska, Antarctica) and continental mountain catchments (H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, Grand Tetons, etc.).

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Latest Comments

Kevin, What a great way to recognize Antarctica day! I especially like the "all expense paid trip to Antarctica" that the winners received! It won't be long for you now! What are you looking...
Kevin, I loved this post. Very delightful to read. I wish you well in Antarctica!
Yep, I sure agree that we are lucky to have this connection to real science and willing, cool scientist that will take an interest in these kids.
These kids really enjoyed getting a little taste of what our science team will be doing in the Dry Valleys. I hope to learn more tips and tricks of how to run a Long Term Ecological Research site for...
Keith, What a great project your American Fork students are working on! And, what a profound contrast in sites between American Fork Canyon and the Dry Valleys!