I have received comments asking for more helicopter video clips. Here is a video of more assorted helicopter scene shots. You will see loading, unloading, scenery, long-lining, and preparing them for their long voyage back to New Zealand aboard the vessel. Fast forward to any part you want to see and enjoy the ride.
Trading stickers between different science teams and support crews is big here on station. Here are two at the top of my list, and they both come from PHI, the helicopter ops team here.
Today is episode #2 of "Meet the Scientist". You will meet Tasha Griffin.
Hi! I’m Tasha, and this is my second year on the Wormherders team here in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. I recently graduated from Brigham Young University, where I studied Environmental Science and learned about water, air, soils, and the tiny creatures that help make our planet work—microbes! I’ve had some amazing chances to do research on parts of the environment at both ends of the earth: soils here in Antarctica and streams in the Alaskan Arctic. Each place is incredibly important (and fun!) to try and understand, so I’ll tell you a little about doing research at both.
As an ecologist, I love asking questions about how organisms and the environment are connected. We’re here in Antarctica because it’s a great system to use to try and answer those questions! Since Kevin has already shown you a lot of what I do as a Wormherder (taking soil samples, identifying soil animals, getting the team stuck out in the field, bothering Dr. Adams all the time, etc.), I’ll focus in on one of my favorite projects here: the SLIME experiment, where we’re looking at soil animals along the transitions between lake and soil ecosystems. The SLIME project is my favorite for a few reasons:
The samples are crazy! Usually we look for microfauna in regular old soil samples. But for SLIME, Shawn and James dive into the lakes to collect awesome slimy samples of lake sediment and algal mats for us. It was super fun to play with tubes full of orange goop.
Our results have been surprising to me, which is one of the most fun things that can happen in science. We’ve found lots of animals deep in the lake, and we can usually find some high up on the dry soils away from the lake, but we can’t seem to find anything in the wet soils right next to the lake! In an extreme desert like the Dry Valleys, you might think that wet soils would be a hotspot for animal life, but so far we’ve seen just the opposite. Possible explanations are welcome in the comments. :)
A few thousand miles north of our work in Antarctica, I’m working to understand the connections between soils and streams in the Arctic landscape of northern Alaska. Like in Antarctica, it’s so cold in the Arctic that a lot of the soil stays frozen solid year-round. This frozen soil is called permafrost. But unlike Antarctica, the Arctic is quickly warming up due to climate change, and its permafrost is thawing out. When permafrost thaws, the microbes and nutrients that were trapped in the frozen soil are suddenly free! I’m trying to figure out what happens to streams when the surrounding permafrost soils thaw. Do microbes from the permafrost suddenly take over the streams? How do these new microbes change the streams’ chemistry and nutrient cycles? To answer those questions, I took water samples from Arctic streams at different times: once in springtime when the surrounding soils were frozen, and once later when the soils had thawed out. Now I’m analyzing the DNA and chemistry in my samples to figure out what the microbes are doing and how they’re connected to changes in the stream.
Aside from all the face-melting science, my favorite thing about studying Antarctica and the Arctic is the amazing scientists I’ve gotten to learn from. The leaders of the Wormherders, Dr. Adams and Dr. Barrett, have been doing research for decades and still get excited about small discoveries like oddly-colored nematodes. The whole Wormherders team is curious and enthusiastic about the natural world, and it makes doing science with them an awesome adventure.