Sharon Robinson

Sharon Robinson

Senior Professor at University of Wollongong

 The lush moss beds that grow near East Antarctica’s coast are among the only plants that can withstand life on the frozen continent. But our new research shows that these slow-growing plants are changing at a far faster rate than anticipated.

Read more in the Conversation

Plus here is a link to our latest youtube video

Sharon Robinson, Melinda Waterman  & Andrew Netherwood (2017)  East Antarctic mosses reveal a windier, drier climate 

The paper is available here if you want to read it. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you want a copy.

Robinson SAKing D, Bramley-Alves J, Waterman MJ, Ashcroft MB, Wasley J,Turnbull JD,Miller RE,Ryan-Colton E, Benny T, Mullany K, Clarke, LJ, Barry, L, HuaQ. (2018) Rapid change in East Antarctic terrestrial vegetation in response to regional dryingNature Climate Change8, 879-884, DOI: 10.1038/s41558-018-0280-0

 

Drones are helping scientists check the health of Antarctic mosses, revealing clues on the pace of climate change.

Read more in the Conversation

Plus here is the Youtube video

and if you want to read the paper

 Malenovský Z, Lucieer A King DK, Turnbull JD & Robinson SA (2017Unmanned aircraft system advances health mapping of fragile polar vegetationMethods in Ecology and Evolution 1842-1857

 

Professor Sharon Robinson has just returned from 19 days aboard the MV Ushuaia as part of the Homeward Bound Leadership Faculty 2019. She led the On Board Science Stream leader with Dr Katherine Duncan.

Antarctica seems like a long way from anywhere but climate change is affecting the tiny plants and animals that make their home there.  Along the Antarctic Peninsula region, that Homeward Bound 3 is visiting, the climate is becoming much warmer and wetter which means that plants can colonise new ice-free areas and grow faster

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On the other side of the continent it is getting colder and drier and the plants are having a tougher time. My team have shown that some East Antarctic moss beds are drying out and dying.2-4So from pole to pole, and all around Antarctica, these tiny plants are recording how we are changing our planet as they grow. My team’s work shows that although these plants are tiny (a few centimeters tall), they can be hundreds of years old. They are the old growth forests of Antarctica, home to tiny microscopic animals, like water bears or moss piglets (tardigrades) springtails and nematode worms, as well as fungi and microbes. We know the plants are hundreds of years oldbecause as they grow, they lay down a signal of the carbon dioxide in the air and so record changes in the composition of carbon dioxide. From coal burning to radioactivity released from nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s (the bomb pulse) they are recording the Anthropocene from the bottom of the globe. That means they are sentinels for our past, as well as early warning of possible global futures.  

SARAntarcticMosscloseup

These plants survive freezing winters, emerging from under winter snow for a brief summer of weeks to just a few months.  They get their water from ice melt and their nutrients from ancient deposits of penguin poo, as well as more recent bird droppings.

SARMossGentoo-penguinsCuverville-Island

They grow all around the Antarctic coast, and it is exciting to think that we may be the first people to see some of these plants as they take over newly exposed land on the peninsula. 

SARNewmossdiscovery

On 13thJanuary, we saw a lot of moss growing near the Admirante Brown (Argentinian) Station. Based on their past visits, our guides on the Ushuaia were able to show us how fast the ice is retreating behind the station and we can see the moss that is colonising these newly exposed rocks. We saw many species of bright green moss on this one landing.

SARMossBrown-Station

The day was so warm, we could see tiny animals, small as a pin head, running around. These invertebrates live in the tiny moss forests and on warm days roam around the nearby rocks looking for food. I was excited to see my first Antarctic midge (Belgica antarctica), the wingless fly that is found on the Peninsula.

SARViewBrown-Station

But there is also a sobering message of climate change in action. Seeing first hand, how quickly the glaciers are retreating and the area is changing, makes the Homeward Bound goal of building a sustainable global future even more important.

References

  1. Waterman M, Turnbull J and Robinson, S (2018) Antarctica’s ‘moss forests’ are drying and dying https://theconversation.com/antarcticas-moss-forests-are-drying-and-dying-103751
  2. Sharon Robinson, Melinda Waterman & Andrew Netherwood (2017) East Antarctic mosses reveal a windier, drier climate https://youtu.be/LF4p3ng0HRQ
  3. Robinson SA, King D, Bramley-Alves J, Waterman MJ, Ashcroft MB, Wasley J,Turnbull JD,Miller RE,Ryan-Colton E, Benny T,Mullany K,Clarke, LJ, Barry, L, HuaQ. (2018) Rapid change in East Antarctic terrestrial vegetation in response to regional drying.Nature Climate Change 8, 879-884, DOI: 10.1038/s41558-018-0280-0
Monday, 03 April 2017 09:19

Life of extremes. Women of Impact

A feature about my research on the UOW Women of Impact Series. Includes a brief overview and a video.

http://www.uow.edu.au/research/woi/UOW214974.html

Tuesday, 04 April 2017 18:45

TEDx Talk

My TEDx talk video from UOW TEDx event on 29 October 2016
 
Professor Sharon Robinson Eco Antarctica Presentation

A Part of GLOBALCHALLENGES.UOW.EDU.AU

 

This is a short online lecture-style presentation that gives an overview of this paper.

Thursday, 27 October 2016 18:52

Online Lecture - Photosynthesis and Light

This is an online lecture for first year biology undergraduates at the University of Wollongong. It was originally a Powerpoint Lecture that was converted to the online format using Articulate Presenter which is a plugin for PowerPoint.

Thursday, 13 October 2016 16:10

King George Island 2015 - The Science

This page is an overview of the sceince projects that I was involved with on our January 2015 trip to King George Island with INACH, the Chilean Antarctic Program. I was working with two Chilean scientists on this trip -

Angelica Casanova-Katny and Gustavo Zuniga.

 

Angelica is from  Centro de Biotecnología, Universidad de Concepción.

Gustavo is from the University of Santiago, Chile and his projects for this trip were....

 

Here is my introduction to the work from the field site at Collins Glacier on Maxwell Bay.

 

 

 

 

We also worked with a team of scientists from Portland State University including Dr Todd Rosentiel and Dr Sarah Eppley. Here is Todd talking about one part of his research.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, 10 October 2016 16:46

King George Island Trip 2015

In January of 2015 I went down to Chile's Escudero Base on King George Island with the Chilean Antarctic Program - INASCH. I was working with Angélica Casanova Katny of the Universidad de Concepción and Professor Gustavo Zuniger from Santiago University. My partner Andrew Netherwood accompanied us as the expedition photographer on this trip and most of the photos you see on this page are taken by him.

This page is mostly about King George Island and Escudero Base where we stayed. For the science projects that we were attempting to accomplish see this page.

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