Tough Tardigrades Journals

Family Reunion in Christchurch
My PolarTREC adventure is coming to a close. My family flew into Christchurch today and we had a happy reunion at the airport. We are going to spend a few days together in New Zealand before returning to our daily lives at home in Utah. It feels so good to be with them, especially since our typical family time during the holidays was cut so short this year. They have been great at supporting me during this expedition. This is our first time outside of the United States as a family and we are excited for this new adventure. The Heward family is reunited at the Christchurch airport after Josh completed his PolarTREC expedition. I know for many of my students back home they are looking towards graduation in a few months and wondering what their next steps are. They will soon be embarking...
Inside a C-17
Delays? Of course there are. Our plane was scheduled to leave New Zealand this morning at 9:00. In typical Antarctic fashion we woke up to a four hour weather delay. At 1:00 PM there was another delay rumored to be mechanical in nature. Around 2:45 PM we finally received word that the plane had left Christchurch. Four hours later we loaded onto the Kress for the hour-long drive to the new Phoenix Airfield. There was a lot of enthusiasm on board the Kress; people are excited to be going home after a long field season that for many started in October. The Kress is used for transporting large groups of people. It seats about 60 people comfortably (except the windows are too high to see out). Anxious passengers at the end of their summer field seasons waiting to board a C-17 at the new...
Castle Rock and Mount Erebus
The routine has been broken. Our typical McMurdo schedule of long days in the lab has come to a close. We spent a day and a half cleaning up the lab in preparation for lab checkout. The lab is now empty, all of the borrowed equipment has been returned to the stockroom, and the C-507 (C-507 is the soil team's event number) equipment has been placed back in the wood boxes to be transported back up to the "line". The "line" is the place where all of the station supplies and equipment are stored. It consists of many rows of containers on pallets and shipping containers and it is located on the hill above McMurdo. The lab had become a home away from home and now it is a strange and unfamiliar place without the mountains of Tri-Pour® beakers, the hum of refrigerators and vent fans, and the...
Dr. Chu Teaching at Arrival Heights
We were invited to visit the Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) facility on Arrival Heights by Xinzhao Chu today. Arrival Heights is an important place for atmospheric research. LIDAR is just one of the experiments happening there. Dr. Chu and her student Zhengyu (Harry) Hua showed us the LIDAR system that they use to make measurements of the mesosphere. Dr. Xinzhao Chu tells a group of wormherders about the research projects happening at Arrival Heights near McMurdo Station, Antarctica. LIDAR The LIDAR system in McMurdo uses two separate lasers and telescopes to make measurements. Each laser uses a different wavelength of light (372 nm and 374 nm). The lasers hit iron particles that are in the mesosphere and the light that bounces back is collected and recorded. LIDAR in Antarctica...
Hello everyone. This is just a quick post about today's PolarConnect event. Byron and I had a great time visiting with you and we were impressed by all of the great questions. I will update this post with all of your unanswered questions from the PolarConnect message thread as soon as I get the transcript from today's session. Our internet connection fell apart right at the end of the session so we didn't hear all of your questions. Please feel free to post questions here and we will answer them. Thank you, -Josh
Helicopter in Virginia Valley
Today was the last time that I will be able to go out in the field to collect samples and I couldn't ask for a better way to end the season. Andy Thompson, Ashley Shaw, and I went to Virginia Valley, Wall Valley, and Wright Valley. Virginia Valley and Wall Valley were named in honor of Ross Virginia and Diana Wall (please see the 20 January 2017 post for more about Ross and Diana). This trip involved multiple stops, so we had close support. Close support meant our helicopter pilot, Harlan Blake, stayed with us all day. The south side of Wright Valley as viewed from the helicopter. The Pilot, Harlan Blake, standing next to his A-Star helicopter in Virginia Valley. We collected samples today for Andy's and Ashley's PhD dissertations. Andy is looking at the Protists that are in the...
Broadcasting from McMurdo
Hello everyone. Today's blog is going to be short. I just wanted everyone to know that Byron Adams and I are going to be broadcasting live from McMurdo on Tuesday, January 24th. The webcast will be at 11:30AM EST, 10:30AM CST, 9:30AM MST, 8:30AM PST and 7:30AM AKST. Please register for the event here. After you register you should receive an email with instructions for joining the PolarConnect event. I have been testing the system out on my end and it looks like it is going to work well. I hope you will join me on Tuesday. Josh Heward testing equipment in preparation for his upcoming PolarConnect event.
Discovery Hut
Discovery Hut in 2017 has been painstakingly restored to its condition when it was built by Robert Falcon Scott in 1902. The hut was only used for a few years by early Antarctic explorers. Discovery Hut was too drafty to be used as sleeping quarters and was primarily used as a supply storehouse. Discovery Hut built by Robert Falcon Scott in 1902. This plaque honors the men of the Discovery Expedition (1901-1904) and marks the Discovery Hut. The cold dry air allowed original supplies to be preserved until modern times and now the hut provides a unique window into the lifestyle of these explorers. Primus cooking stove in the Discovery Hut. Seal carcasses left by explorers in the early 1900s still hang in Discovery Hut. 100 year old seal jerky hangs in the discovery hut....
Ross Virginia and Diana Wall
"Our First Year of Big Science" Ross Virginia wrote in the Lake Hoare camp log book in January 1990. 27 years later and it can definitively be said that Ross Virginia and Diana Wall have indeed done some "big science". It all started with a nalgene bottle full of soil from the Dry Valleys. Bob Wharton had collected the soil sample in Taylor Valley and sent it to Diana Wall for analysis. After finding nematodes in the sample, she and Ross Virginia put together a proposal to do more extensive surveys for nematodes in Dry Valley soils. Their hope was to parse out the impact of soil structure and chemistry on the distribution and composition of animal communities without having to deal with confounding variables like plants and higher animals. Nearly three decades of work along those lines...
Bdelloid Rotifer
There are three major types of animals that are found in the Dry Valley Soils: Nematodes, Tardigrades and Rotifers. Nematodes were discussed in the 5 Jan. 2017 post, Tardigrades were discussed in the 7 Nov. 2016 post and in the 9 Jan. 2017 post. Now it is time to introduce you to the Rotifers. This Bdelloid Rotifer was found in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. Rotifers are the second most abundant type of animal in the Dry Valley soils. Rotifers are the second most abundant group of animals in the Dry Valley soils. Rotifers are similar in size to tardigrades and nematodes. They have a single foot with toes that they can use to attach to surfaces. Rotifers also have a corona (crown). The corona consists of ciliated lobes that are used to create currents which bring in tiny food particles. When...