Anna Nydahl recently completed Honours in the Robinson Lab and is now back in Sweden. She tested how sensitive Antarctic moss and algae were to contaminated soil. Around the Antarctic stations there have been quite a few fuel spills where the diesel used to fuel the stations has accidently leaked into the soil. The Australian Antarctic Division are cleaning up a number of these sites using innovative remediation techniques.
Jessica has been really busy this year, she submitted her thesis at the end of last year and it has been examined so we think she is already Dr Jess, although maybe she needs to graduate first for that to be really official. Plus then we can get a picture of her in the gown, hood and cap. In addition, she has a new job at CUGE in Singapore and is busy running environmental projects there. She has also published a paper from her PhD work and another from some work she did on Macquarie Island before her PhD. So an excellent start to 2015.
Now that I have settled in back home, sifted through my photos and have good internet access I can tell you about the next part of the Antarctic trip. After Sharon, Andrew and Sarah departed King George Island by plane, the remaining members of the moss team patiently awaited our transport to our next leg in the trip, the Aquiles, a ship from the Chilean Navy fleet.
Our group studies mosses in Antarctica. Long shoots of these mosses reveal information about past climate and are showing marked changes to current conditions. Changes in ozone and carbon dioxide are driving winds further south, resulting in increased evaporation and a reduction in the growing period. Our latest paper on this topic is in press in Global Change Biology (Bramley-Alves et al. Moss δ13C: an accurate proxy for past water environments in polar regions). Well done Jess! You can also listen to an interview on the ABC Science Show about an early paper by Laurence Clarke.
After a few days in the field collecting moss samples and becoming familiar with the many types of moss species living on King George Island, we had enough to begin experimenting in the lab.
When the weather is bad we are confined to the station and can't go out to the field. This happened on Wednesday and Thursday. This is a good opportunity to do indoor experiments, identify moss samples and enter data. Plus do the washing, have showers, maybe catch up on sleep and update the blog. On Thursday after two days inside the weather cleared in the afternoon so we walked to the church.
The Collins glacier site, where one set of open top chambers has been installed, has very interesting vegetation. As the glacier retreats it exposes bare ground where seeds and spores can germinate. In Antarctica vegetation can also reproduce when fragments of the plants, called propagules, are spread from one area to another, possibly by birds or by wind or water dispersal.
One of the two vascular plants found in Antarctica is already colonising the area below the moraine line, this is Deschampsia antarctica the only native Antarctic grass.
As Mel said in the last post we visited Collins Glacier to set up Open Top Chambers (OTC). It is interesting to see how the moss and lichens are colonizing the ground as the glacier retreats. The moss beds are amazing, in some places it looks like a river of moss cascading down the hill. There are a lot more moss and lichen species here than at Casey so we are learning new ones every day.
Since my arrival on King George Island, I have been sciencing-away making the most of the opportunities to collect samples, learn new moss species, perform experiments and set up new ones. It has been exciting to meet with new collaborators and make new contacts in Antarctic science.