Safety is one of the top priorities at Palmer Station. Today Kelly and I had Island Survival Training. We learned what is in the boat bag and the three survival bins, each set of three bins strategically placed on different islands. I learned how to light the tiny stove, tie various knots (including my favorite butterfly knot), throw a rope to someone in the water, use the GPS (including setting a waypoint quickly if there is a person overboard), and set up the tent that is in the boat bag.
My study area
My study area is a deglaciated area. The glacier, named the Marr Ice Piedmont, has been retreating quite fast, especially in recent decades. It used to border the station perimeter, but now it has retreated by several hundred meters, thereby revealing the rocks (and soil!) beneath it. Here is a photo of a tag showing where the glacier terminus was in 1984.
The idea for my research project was that the recently exposed soils should provide a gradient in plant productivity, from no plants close to the glacier edge, to some or many plants nearer to Palmer station (as soils closer to Palmer station would have had more time to be colonized by plants).
Upon preliminary scoping of my study area today I find that there are some plants (very sporadic), but they do not look that healthy compared to the ones on Litchfield Island (see yesterday’s blog). Litchfield Island is one of the sites in my study and represents the “lushest” plant site.
I am not discouraged - it will be a challenge to find suitable sites, but we have more areas to explore that are still buried beneath the snow.
One good thing though: our prototype outside withstood the 20-25 knot winds a few days ago.
Kelly and I hiked up the glacier. At one point I looked back at my two general study areas:
- The land area between the station (bottom left in photo) and the glacier that I am on.
- Litchfield Island: the large island central in the photo (in front of the large iceberg).
We are simply lucky to be able to work in this paradise. Challenge accepted. Now we wait for the snow to melt.