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
After a long wait we recently received a shiny new spectrometer to detect the subtle fluorescence given off by plants in sunlight (known as solar induced fluorescence; SIF). We plan to use this spectrometer in conjunction with our LIFT (light induced fluorescence transience) to understand what this SIF signal can tell us about plant photosynthesis and functioning.
However, in order to do this we our spectrometer needed to be calibrated (i.e setup to give meaningful measurements) and we needed to understand the optical properties of the plants we plan to study. This means measuring the amount of light that can pass through and the amount of light reflected from the leaves of the plant being examined. To do this Zbynek and I spent three long days working with an object called an integrating sphere.
Now that our spectrometer is calibrated and we have a better understanding of our experimental plants we look forward to running some exciting experiments.
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.
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.
This week, sixteen lucky students from Chile got to visit the INACH Science base on King George Island for a week. They were actually the winners from a nationwide competition of high school students and these were the ones whose projects had most impressed the selectors. So they were all very bright. They came to the Escudero base with four teachers and a representative from INACH. During the week they got to interact with the various science teams on and around the base.
Saturday night was sushi night at the Chilean Escudero base. Roberto and Christian the two chefs at the base, spent all afternoon making sushi. Apparently they were also providing some training for a chef from the the nearby Navy base and the Chief of the Navy Base came to dinner to try out the results. The result was spectacular or esstupendo!
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.
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.