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Friday/Saturday, January 13 & 14, 2006
The team at WAIS completed their packing and were able to leave on the 13th, earlier in the day than expected. They arrived safely at McMurdo that evening. Jerome and Abdul left McMurdo at noon on the 13th for Christchurch. Jerome will be heading home and should reach there on the 15th. Abdul plans to do a little touring before returning to Kansas.
On the 13th, Jennifer toured some biology labs with Amy Shields, a Ph.D student from the College of William and Mary (Virginia). She is working with Dr. Kam Tang to study Phaeocystis antarctica. This is a type of phytoplankton and is a keystone species for the Antarctic food chain. It is an interesting organism because early in its life cycle it is a single cell, but later it groups together in colonies and the colonies exude a mucous that surrounds the whole group of cells. These critters take up carbon and release volatile organic sulfur into the water. The researchers are looking at whether the solitary forms differ from the group forms in growth, composition or photosynthetic rates. They also are looking at how the zooplankton that feed on these phytoplankton and the nutrients available affect the colonies. To do these studies, they have a dive hole on the sea ice behind Crary Lab where they bring up water samples with the phytoplankton. They then filter out specific amounts of the organism and put it into sample bottles which they keep in an environmental chamber that keeps the water at just the right temperature. They can change the nutrient levels and the number of grazers (zooplankton) in each sample bottle, as well as control light levels and turbulence within the bottles. Amy does some work with radioisotopes to trace the carbon uptake and emissions from these tiny critters. It is a complex and interesting piece of work they are doing. This is Amy�s fifth season at McMurdo. Some of our readers may know Amy as she is an Overland Park resident, when not at college or on the ice. You can view a photo of Phaeocystis Antarctica in both its forms at http://www.vims.edu/phae/.
Early on the 14th, Jennifer held a live webcast where she answered questions from students at California Trail Junior High School in Olathe, Kansas, and New Albany High School in Columbus, Ohio. Members of the press and administrators as well as several classes of students attended the webcast at the Olathe school. ALTEC staff at KU as well as students in Holton, Kansas, also watched the webcast, which lasted about two hours. The conference went quite well with only one small glitch when the transmission shut down after about one hour. After just a few minutes of tweaking, we were able to resume and finish the broadcast. After that the whole team went over to work on weighing, measuring and getting the cargo ready for transport back to the University of Kansas. This was a huge task and took several hours, but was completed by 1:30 pm. All equipment borrowed from the Berg Field Center was returned and checked in.
Around 7:00 p.m., Jennifer took a walk with two other people to Hut Point, where she was lucky enough to see and film a lone Adelie penguin. It had seemed that all of us would have to leave Antarctica without seeing a single penguin, but this was a lucky day. The penguin seemed quite undisturbed by the three humans watching, but it got agitated when the helicopter flew overhead. It was great seeing this cute bird in its natural habitat.
Tomorrow there is a science lecture about the Dry Valleys of Antarctica that should prove quite educational. The team is scheduled to fly to Christchurch on the 17th if the weather holds. So far it has been quite good, but light snow is predicted for tonight and Monday.
NOTE: This was the entire journal entry, not just page 1.
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