Highlights of Antarctica:
Today is a special day - the one hundredth day of my field season. Therefore, I will share with you some of the highlights during my stay Antarctica. I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the National Science Foundation who funded my research and believing in its importance also. My research, in collaboration with the Center for Ecosystem Science and Society, truly is at the frontier of climate change science and literally at the Earth’s frontier.
Setting up the field experiment was not an easy task as the sites were hard to find. However, we were successful in finding great sites, each with their own spectacular views (by the way, that was not the reason they were chosen!). Below is an image at site 3 (close to Palmer Station and Arthur Harbor from which we could observe leopard and crabeater seals lounging on ice floes) and site 1 (the glacier edge, which can be seen in the background).
Our last site had some extra challenges: First, the curious skuas were attracted to our plots with the fancy tags, soil cores, and chambers (see day 39). Second, there were fur seals to avoid on the hike up, and also we found them lounging near our site. However, they generally were too sleepy to bother us, which was fine by us! (but we still kept an eye on them).
I find I have a new hobby: driving a zodiac! This was one of the most useful skills for my research. This enabled me to commute to Litchfield Island, but also collect samples from other islands. Thanks to the MTs for giving Kelly and I a thorough training.
Helping others with research
One fantastic day was when PJ and I helped the whale researchers. We spotted some whales and we were careful to keep our distance from them, while we made sure the researchers were safe while conducting their important work. For more information on their research, please visit here. PJ and I took turns driving the zodiac. In the photo below PJ and I are in the background.
Abundance of wildlife
I cannot express the feeling of seeing the sheer abundance of wildlife and to watch their natural behavior in this stunning environment. What Antarctica lacks in diversity, it makes up in numbers. So we will see large flocks of Wilson’s stormpetrels dancing on the water, leopard seals dozing on ice, rafts of crabeater seals searching for suitable ice floes to rest upon, skuas chasing each other, fur seals playing (and sometimes pestering each other) in the water and on the beach. There is activity everywhere!
The backdrop of my field experiment is one of captivating beauty, graced with a glacier that covers most of Anvers Island, and the sheer mountain peaks of the Antarctic Peninsula behind it. Here is a sunset photo of a couple of weeks ago from atop the glacier. Simply….. magnificent.