This is the fifteenth entry in the Armed with Science series, Dispatches from Antarctica. The series features Air Force Lt. Col. Ed Vaughan’s first-hand experiences on OPERATION: DEEP FREEZE, the Defense Department’s support of National Science Foundation research in Antarctica.
11 October 2010, McMurdo Station, Antarctica: Rock Star Marine Biologists
I arrive a few minutes early for my meeting. The whole reason we’re here in Antarctica is science. Most of us support the science, but some people actually “do” the science. At McMurdo, these science-doers are like rock stars…albeit, exceptionally intelligent and hard-working National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded rock stars. And each week, on Wednesdays, Sundays, and seemingly any other day, the stars of Antarctic science give presentations to the community.
Real. Cool. Science.
I push open the main door on one of the marine science areas within Crary Labs at McMurdo Station. There are tanks of various shapes and sizes with water pumping and flowing out of hoses and bubbling up from submerged devices. Unlike the rest of the station, the air in this room feels less dry, and I’m met immediately by the scent of seawater.
I find the right office. The sign on the door says, Hofmann B-134-M. That means this particular science project, number 134, is assigned to NSF grantee, Dr. Gretchen Hofmann, while the “B” is for biological sciences and the “M” is for McMurdo Station. Dr. Pauline C. Yu, an NSF-Office of Polar Programs Postdoctoral Research Fellow from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Dr. Mary Sewell, senior lecturer in Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour, in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Auckland, are both collaborating with Dr. Hofmann. [look for more about Dr. Sewell in a forthcoming dispatch.] They look up from their work smiling and motion for me to wait off to the side.
These are scientists in their element. They are focused and serious, while also clearly enjoying what they are doing. The two are in the middle of mixing samples for an experiment. Dr. Sewell explains that today’s task is to validate a particular protocol which supports the greater project exploring the impact of ocean acidification.
Make no mistake. This is important, cutting-edge work. I’ve provided links to their work below and an accompanying video featuring Dr. Yu. Rather than attempting to explain the work here, I’ll let the scientists tell you themselves through their published pages.