This week is science week in Australia and Diana and Zbynek starred in a UOWTV video on our Antarctic research. On Friday our "Game of Antarctic mosses" story was published in the Universities' booklet celebrating 40 years of Research at UOW and Sharon featured in another video to promote the event. On Tuesday, Zbynek left to go for some holiday and to visit colleagues at CESBIO. Meanwhile Sharon met up with Bob Furbank at the High Resolution Plant Phenomics Centre to discuss LIFT research.
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.
We have just heard that Melinda and rest of the team are back in Punta Arenas after an "amazing crossing of the Drake Passage".
The moss team at Escudero base has dispersed. Sharon, Sarah and Andrew left by plane to Punta Arenas on Tuesday 20th. Sarah is now back in Portland and we are in Australia. Meanwhile Melinda, Angelica, Andreas, Todd, Hannah and Paz got onto a Chilean Navy ship, The Achilles, early on Thursday and are en route to Byers Peninsula for some Antarctic Camping! Gustavo, Marisol and Tavo are still at the Base. They should have more food now that we have left and the Achilles has resupplied them.
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.
Sharon and Andrew travelled down on a Chilean Air force Hercules plane and arrived at the Chilean base on King George Island on Saturday night. It was great to see Melinda, Angelica, Gustavo, Todd, Sarah and the rest of the team. There are 12 people working on Antarctic plants and lichens here at the moment. On Saturday night there was a reception party to welcome us all to the base and we met up with the other expeditioners over a few glasses of good Chilean wine.