While UAB Marine Biologists Chuck and Maggie Amsler, Kevin Peters, and Anne Fairhead prepare to depart by ship from Punta Arenas, Chile in early February bound for Palmer Station, Antarctica, I will stay behind to join Dr. Bill Baker, our marine natural products chemist from the University of South Florida, in the "second wave" of our Antarctic research team. We are currently scheduled to depart by ship from Punta Arenas, Chile in late March. While our departure date remains weeks away, Bill and I are already extremely busy with the completion of a myriad of details surrounding planning and preparing for the expedition (my 11th expedition to this icy continent!). A few weeks ago we had a meeting of the team Principal Investigators (Chuck, Bill and myself) to sit down and review our plans for the upcoming field season. We also took advantage of this face to face meeting to begin to lay the foundation for the preparation of our next research proposal to seek continued support from the National Science Foundation for our studies of Antarctic marine chemical ecology. The importance of our meeting in person cannot be understated, as long distance e-mails and phone calls do not provide the necessary climate for effective communication when brain storming scientific questions that build upon a growing edifice of knowledge that we and others have erected over years of study. Unlike most other science research proposals, we have to approach ours from both a scientific and a logistical perspective. There are plenty of fascinating scientific questions to pursue in the seas of Antarctica, but without careful consideration of how the work will be done in such a rigorous environment with its unique suite of challenges, a proposal will never stand up to scrutiny by the reviewers. For example, it is not good enough to say in your proposal that you will simply collect Antarctic marine organisms or place an experiment into the field, but rather you must describe in detail how you will knowledgably negotiate the rigorous weather, sea ice, ice bergs, and demanding dive conditions. Having worked in this environment for many years, our research team is in the enviable position of having first hand knowledge of most of these contingencies.
Our Principal Investigator meeting was most successful, and we not only reviewed our research objectives for the fast approaching field season at Palmer Station, but came up with several additional experiments and collections to be conducted simultaneously, some of which will target important new preliminary information for our next research proposal, and others that will assist colleagues we know who have asked for our assistance in their own research. Importantly, we also built a solid framework for a synergistic interdisciplinary proposal to seek continued support for our Palmer-based research program. As usual, I am getting excited about the coming research expedition and counting the days until mid March when Bill and I will travel south to join our research team. "Bon Voyage" Chuck, Maggie, Kevin and Anne! May the Drake Passage be as calm as a lake for you!