Senior Professor at University of Wollongong
Assessing the impacts of human activity on plants in one of the world’s most remote regions Royal Society of Chemistry Blog on our recent paper on the Impact of hydrocarbons from a diesel fuel on the germination and early growth of subantarctic plants
GK Macoustra, CK King, J Wasley, SA Robinson and DF Jolley. Environ. Sci.: Processes Impacts, 2015, Advance Article DOI: 10.1039/C4EM00680A download here
During the first year of their PhD, students have to write a Literature review, produce a project proposal and give a seminar. Together these are the hoops that need to be jumped through to get confirmed in your PhD program. Rhys did his seminar at the postgrad retreat last year and was so impressive he won the prize for the best 1st year talk. Last week he completed the other two components in excellent style, so congratulations Rhys.
It's been a busy week. Wednesday was the big day. Dr Jessica Bramley-Alves made a flying visit from Singapore to Graduate and to give her final PhD seminar. Jess managed to get history, science and modern culture into her talk on Antarctic moss demonstrating what an inter-disciplinary lot we are. Dr Ari Nugraha also graduated. Ari is an honorary member of the moss team having worked with Mel on moss pigment identification.
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.
University of Wollongong was chosen as the venue to launch the latest $2 million round of grants from the Australian Biological Resources Study (devoted to funding taxonomic research). It caused a buzz in the School of Biological Sciences with A/Prof. James Wallman assisting in the launch with an excellent and entertaining speech.
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.
Over Christmas we made a tree from plastic we found on the beach at Strangles in North Cornwall and since then I have been taking photos of plastic on beaches around the world. So far not surprisingly Antarctica had the cleanest beaches. I didn't find any plastic washed up there amongst the penguins. However, if you look inside Antarctic birds they have plastic inside them
Here is a link which makes sobering reading. As Hardesty and Wilcox say in their Conversation article "the ubiquity, volume, and permanence of plastic waste demands better solutions" Eight million tonnes of plastic are going into the ocean each year
Jessica Bramley-Alves has spent a lot of time down South over the last few years. She had multiple summers at both Casey Station and on Macquarie Island as part of both her PhD and Environmental Science Honours research. Maybe all that cold has got to her because she has just started working at the Center for Urban Ecology and Greenery and National Parks Board of Singapore.
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.