Anne Marie,

The new flag display above the deck of the Oden looks great! Thanks for tying all those knots. My fifth grade science classes have been following your journals faithfully and are still hoping to spot our Arkansas flag. The wind just hasn't blown in our direction yet!

Forty students and two adults watched your last webinar during their lunch recess but were unable to call in. It was good to match voices with photographs.

Why are the journals several days old before we receive them? What is the process for posting them?

Also, there are obviously a lot of plants in Antarctica to support the large number of animals. Could we see some of them? You mentioned seeing algae on upturned ice chunks and phytoplankton in a melt pond at one of your stops. What plants are you seeing now? Are any of them of decent size? Does the plant life vary from location to location? Have you learned anything surprising about Antarctic food webs?

Barbara Reng 5th Grade Science Teacher Jonesboro Math & Science Magnet Jonesboro, Arkansas

Anne Marie Wotkyns

Hi There! Those are some great questions. Let me help clarify...Flags - I've got 2 more sets of flags pictures to post, and once we are at McMurdo Station I hope to get some really clear pictures showing all the flags. It is windy here all the time - hard to get those flags to hang down straight so they all can be seen!
Webinar - sorry you couldn't call in, but glad you could participate. Look for the first webinar archive and you could watch that one too! Check the PolarTREC website for info.
Journals - Because we have no internet here on the ship for me to use, I have to send my journals out as emails, and then send each photograph out in a separate email. Then the PolarTREC staff puts them together and posts it to the website. Sending the emails by satellite is not always timely, often it only goes out 1X or 2X a day, and occasionally one gets "lost" - so we're a few days behind. Also depends on how much free time I have to send them out! Thanks for being patient!
We actually see NO plants at all here! In fact, since leaving Chile, none of us have seen any green plants except a few houseplants here on the Oden! In the deeper waters where we cruise, the only "plants" are phytoplankton. In areas areas with shallow water that isn't covered with ice year round (like on the Antarctic Peninsula and the islands north of the continent) there can be "macro-algae" like kelp, but farther south where we have been, the shallow areas are covered with ice year-round - too cold and not enough light for kelp to grow. All of the animals (birds, seals, whales, and penguins) we have seen are carnivores - they eat fish, krill, or zooplankton - as part of a marine food chain with phytoplankton (plant plankton) as its base. The few land plants Antarctica has are mosses, lichen, algae, and two flowering plants, mostly found on the Peninsula. Antarctica has no land based vertebrates, and only a few invertebrates - mainly microscopic worms and mites.
I will see if anyone here has pictures of the phytoplankton they have found under the ice and caught in the plankton net. They are mainly microscopic. You could also try researching that a little in you classroom. Have Fun!
What surprised me the most about the Antarctic food web is how little is truly known about it! For example, when I saw minke whales swimming right at the edge of the "fast" ice shelf and diving under it, I assumed it was to feed on the krill who were feeding on the algae growing under the ice. When I asked one of the scientists about it, he answered "We think that's what might be happening, but we're not sure." So we need more polar scientists to research things like this!

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