The Times They are a Changin'

The change in seasons always includes a turnover from summer to winter station crews. Before ship sailing, KatePizzaboth the station and crew of the Laurence M. Gould gather together to share one last meal before roam apart. We call this cross town dinner, and usually it's a pizza feast with pies in all shapes and flavors as well as a contribution from the boat. Most summer crew people are ecstatic to head north, and they better start swimming or they'll sink like a stone, for the times they are a changin'.

One of the people leaving is a primary investigator on the Antarctic Peninsula based Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) project, a penguin researcher named Bill Fraser. He has been coming down to Palmer Station since the early '70s to study the penguin and giant petrel colonies, most recently recording changes in avian communities along the western Antarctic Peninsula. His wife Donna Patterson joined in on the studies in the late '80s and over subsequent years they've been keeping their eyes wide open (because the chance may not come again), not speaking too soon for the wheel KateTimesGentoois still spinning. The dominant penguin species in this area has certainly shifted (the bug-eyed Adélie is being displaced by the orange beaked Gentoo - at left), no tellin' who that it's namin' for the loser now will be later to win. And the times they are a changin'.

Some writers and critics have prophesized with their pens that the global climate change will negatively impact the benthic and pelagic ecosystem in the oceans. Much of the work at Palmer Station seems to focus on how the climate will affect their various study organisms. Julie previously spoke of our experiment setup in the aquarium room, both microcosms and mesocosms. Our primary goal has been to examine how the benthic community of Antarctica will change in an environment with higher temperatures and lower pH levels. The community members we focus on are invertebrates like mollusks, amphipods, and red and brown algae.

Four researchers who are part of the LTER and have been focusing on how pelagic organisms will respond to lower pH in the oceans are also leaving on this ship, along with two of the fish scientists Maggie wrote about. Others voyagers include the cooks, mechanics, doctor, station manager, waste management and marine technician and...- the list continues because it takes a lot to run a station like this.

A good friend of mine, Yuta Kawarasaki, was a graduate student who studied Belgica antarctica (one of the KateTimesYutatwo insects that live in Antarctica) and how it would respond to warmer temperatures and shift in frost levels. In previous field seasons I helped Yuta collect in early April.  With spoons in hand we laid or sat on the cold ground shifting around the nearly frozen soils grains or turning over rocks in search of his bugs.(See insect biology in action right)  We would always get a bit fed up with the endless bad weather and ever shortening daylight hours. To commiserate/entertain ourselves we played back a clip from Madagascar where the penguins have finally landed in Antarctica and are shivering on the ice and so appropriately state "well this sucks". We are just beginning to see that change in the weather here, with rain or snow and winds up to 50 knots that are like a battle outside a ragin'. We have to admit that the waters around us have grown more violent and accept it that soon we'll be drenched to the bone. For the times they are a changin'.

Some may say "come senators, congressmen, please heed the call". But maybe he that gets hurt will be he that has stalled, and all of the research going on at the station (supported by the amazing support staff) may show that climate change will shake our windows and rattle our walls. Only time will tell, the present now will later be past, and in so many ways the times they are a-changin'.

No tellin' Kate's been listenin' to Mr. Bob Dylan... send a new verse to us at

antarctica@uab.edu