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I am lucky to participate in another research trip to King George Island (KGI), West Antarctica organised by the Instituto Antartico Chileno. Last year Sharon, Andrew and I were part of a group of scientists from a diverse range of countries lead by Angélica Casanova-Katny. This time around I am accompanying Gustavo, Tavo and Marisol from USACH as part of my Endeavour program.

Dr Mel has been in Antarctica for over a week now and we are hoping there will be updates and exciting news but unfortunately the internet is slow (probably doesn't like the cold) and so she is sending messages via whats app.  Luckily there is mobile phone coverage on King George Island!  Looks like Tavo is on the phone in the lab here.

I might be a little late to blog about this but it has been a busy last few weeks. The Facultad de Quimica y Biologia at USACH had a successful end to 2015 and put on a lunch with finger-food, including mini empanadas (empanaditas). I attended the New Year’s fireworks at Los Dominicos, Santiago with my host supervisor’s family. We dressed up in silly hats and of course glow sticks, drank champagne and exploded the largest hand held party poppers I’ve seen. Both were fun events to cap off a great year for research and achievements.

I arrived in Concepción in the middle of December to see Angelica and her student, Paz, to collect Antarctic moss samples and prepare instruments to record weather conditions in Antarctica. 

Months of getting equipment ready have finally cumulated in 10 days field work at the scenic Summerland House Farm. Prof Barry Osmond (pictured) and I spent ten days in the field trying to understand photosynthesis in both the inner and outer canopies of Avocado trees. We were running all our equipment from four large car batteries which we charged overnight and lugged out to our field site each day. During the ten day campaign we were met with everything from clear summer days to golf ball sized hail and we often found ourselves rushing to the field site to ensure none of our equipment got wet. Overall though a successful field campaign with lots of promising data collected and a big thankyou to all the welcoming staff at Summerland Farm House and Alstonville Country Cottages.

An article about my seminar last week has been posted on the Universidad de Santiago de Chile web site.Experta advierte sobre los riesgos de los gases de efecto invernadero y el calentamiento de la Tierra or Expert warns of the risks of greenhouse gases and global warming. 

After almost a month visiting the Facultad de Quimica y Biologia (Faculty of Chemistry and Biology) at the Universidad de Santiago de Chile it was time for me to come back home. On my last day at the University I gave a lecture to an Undergraduate Class and then in the afternoon the lab prepared a Chilean speciality as a farewell lunch.  We had heard a lot about completos but this was our first taste of the real thing.

This week Johanna Turnbull finalised her PhD thesis corrections and so she is now officially Dr Johanna Turnbull.  We are going to have a really big party at the next graduation cermony with two mossy PhD graduands together.  Well done Dr Johanna!

 

This picture shows Johanna communing with an Emperor penguin on her way to Casey to do her research.

 

On Monday I gave a class on Antarctica and our research to a second year Plant Physiology class at Bowdoin College in the US. This was my first experience of doing a remote class and I was glad that I was at the University of Santiago de Chile and could do the class at 12.30pm instead of the middle of the night in Australia.  

To celebrate Melinda getting her PhD we took a weekend break in the Atacama Desert.  We are very used to cold deserts but this was a whole other experience.  Really dry, salty and hot and very high altitude so burning UV radiation.  So can plants survive there?  Of course they are so tough.  Some parts were so dry we didn't see much vegetation but wherever there was a bit of water we saw plants.