The RV Palmer, the largest among the fleet of ships maintained by the United States in Antarctic waters, pulled anchor and I felt the surge of two of its four powerful ice-breaking engines under my feet. On the dock of Palmer Station everyone stood waving to those departing. All of us had truly become a “family” over our stay at the station.
Among those standing on the dock were the six remaining members of our UAB/FIT research team. Over the coming month, they will continue our studies of the chemical ecology of marine macroalgae and invertebrates. Indeed, please be sure to keep close tabs on the UAB WOW Web site as our team provides regular updates.
But for me it was time to head home, and I, somewhat reluctantly, turned my gaze to the northern latitudes.
Now home at UAB, I am pleased to report considerable progress on our Antarctic research efforts to date. The relatively calm weather at the beginning of our field season (early March) allowed our research divers to collect numerous representative species of both marine macroalgae and invertebrates for our chemical studies. These samples have been archived, frozen, freeze-dried and extracted for analysis. We have worked hard to develop a number of bioassays to test whether these chemical extracts are defensive in nature against Antarctic organisms (ranging from bacteria to fish).
The information we are collecting mounts by the day, and we can begin to look forward to writing up scientific papers, and presenting our findings at national and international scientific meetings. Already there are new marine organisms that we have found to contain organic extracts with toxic properties. It will be fascinating to further examine the nature of the specific compounds and to try and understand why these organisms possess such nasty chemistry.
And it is also rewarding to know that any new compounds we discover will be screened to determine if they have potential in the battle against a variety of human diseases.
Over the coming weeks, I will be sharing our ongoing research experiences in Antarctica with a variety of people including members of the scientific and business communities, as well as educational groups and the general public. It will be rewarding to share with them not only the excitement of our Antarctic marine science, but the satisfaction we take in sharing these experiences with our graduate students (Andy Mahon and Bruce Furrow ), postdoctoral fellow (Katrin Iken), and fellow teacher (Joanna Hubbard).
And importantly, we look forward to continuing to share with you, our Web site readers, the wonders and values of conducting scientific research in Antarctica.