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.
Sharon gave a well-received presentation on ‘Getting published’ to the Facultad de Química y Biología, USACH last week. She provided information on the submission and reviewing processes of scientific publications drawing on from her experience as an editor for Global Change Biology.
Sharon and Mel joined Gustavo and his wife on Saturday 7th November for a road trip heading east from Santiago - the Andes. We first practised our metro and navigation skills to meet our lovely hosts at Estacion Los Dominicos. We drove from here along the Rio Maipo into the Andes on a road called Camino al volcan (road to the volcano).
Sharon and I were lucky to have Angélica Casanova-Katny travel from Concepción to visit us, Gustavo and his research group at USACH on Tuesday and Wednesday. Both of us, Marisol and Rodrigo gave research talks during which Angélica contributed some interesting comparisons with her expertise on Antarctic plants on King George Island.
Last week Melinda got the Examination reports for her PhD. With a lot of quick action on the part of the Graduate School, Mel was able to respond to the comments in record time. On Thursday she was able to submit her corrected thesis and that meant that on Friday she officially received notification that she has met all the requirements for her PhD and she will be able to graduate at the next ceremony in April. So a big congratulations to Dr Melinda Waterman on this achievement and also a big thank you to everyone in Graduate School at UOW for making it happen so fast. The reason there was a rush is that Mel had to be awarded her PhD in order to start her Endeavour Fellowship in Santiago, Chile.
On the morning of our second day in Santiago (5th November) we were kindly escorted to the Universidad de Santiago de Chile (USACH) by Marisol. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Gustavo and attended a final examination seminar (en espanol) by one of Gustavo’s research undergraduate students, 'little' Rodrigo. Sharon and I were quite proud of how much we understood of his interesting seminar on the salt stress on an Antarctic grass, Deschampsia antarctica.
Melinda and Sharon have a new paper published with colleagues at the University of Adelaide. We helped Robert Cirocco, a PhD student from Adelaide, to extract photosynthetic pigments from an Australian native Hemiparasite Cassytha pubescensand its host plant Leptospermum myrsinoides. A hemiparasite plant is one which takes water and minerals from its host by taping into the xylem vessels that conduct water. It is not a full parasite because it is able to photosynthesise and make its own sugars.
On November 4th, Melinda and Sharon flew to Chile to work with colleagues at the Universidad de Santiago de Chile (USACH). We are being hosted by Dr Dr. Gustavo E. Zúñiga, Dean of the Faculty. Melinda will be working in the Laboratorio de Fisiología y Biotecnología Vegetal (Plant Physiology and Biotechnology Lab) until February. We worked with Gustavo, Marisol, Tavo and Hans from this group last year in Antarctica. They have been looking after the samples of moss we collected there and Melinda will be extracting compounds from them while she is here.
Last week Melinda Waterman and Johanna Turnbull both gave their final PhD seminars. Years of work on Antarctic mosses condensed into an hour. Now that their theses are submitted they have completed all the requirements for their PhDs and are both just waiting for the examiners comments to come back. November is also when we hold the postgraduate retreat and all the PhD students give their annual seminars, so Rhys Wyber also had to give one. Last year he won the prize for best introductory seminar and this year he was runner up, so he is keeping up the lab tradition of excellent seminars. Well done Rhys, Melinda and Johanna.