I have spent a considerable portion of my time in graduate school in Antarctica. The bulk of our work is based out of McMurdo Station, Antarctica, as well as day trips to nearby field sites. These experiences were funded by an NSF Office of Polar Programs grant to my advisor, Professor Gretchen Hofmann, which allowed me to participate in the US Antarctic Program (USAP).
2014 – 11 weeks
Our 2014 field season was the first year of a project investigating the fate of the Antarctic pteropod, Limacina helicina antarctica, in the face of near-future ocean change. We conducted the first consistent sampling of pteropods in McMurdo Sound
during the Austral Spring, and conducted short-term (1-week) exposures to CO2 levels expect to see within the next 50 years. These samples are being analyzed for shell integrity with scanning electron microscopy, as well as shell impurities with X-ray diffraction techniques. In addition to the organismal experiments in the lab, I was exposed to a vast expanse of Antarctic fieldwork techniques, and spent a large number of days conducting plankton tows and collecting seawater samples for carbonate chemistry.
Another large component of our project was the continuation of a long-term pH dataset of McMurdo Sound, which required the preparation and deployment of autonomous pH sensors. This exposed to the world of Antarctic diving, which shaped my field season for the following year.
Collecting a water sample on SCUBA.
installing a SeaFET at Cape Evans, Antarctica
Under-ice greenery near the Ob Tube.
Gearing up for a dive.
Handoff of a retrieved sensor to dive support.
Gearing up to dive.
All geared up!
2015 – 11 weeks, 18 dives
During this field season, we continued an expanded greatly upon the organismal biology that we laid the groundwork for in 2014. Not only were we able to hold pteropods in laboratory conditions for a longer duration (2-3 week incubations), we were also able to expand the scope of the study to include a temperature multistressor component. I conducted an experiment measuring the metabolic cost of living in a high-CO2 condition via high-throughput, high-frequency respirometry (in prep). In addition samples have been preserved for a suite of post-hoc laboratory analyses.
After completing the previous season, I immediately started drysuit training and gained the necessary qualifications to allow me to dive for the project under the US Antarctic Program auspices. I became the first graduate student in the lab to dive under Antarctic ice, and this opportunity allowed me to dive with world-class cold-water divers in a truly unique experience.