When Chuck Amsler arrives in Palmer Station, he'll be going back to a place with many fond memories. Amsler, 42, is a marine algal ecophysiologist meaning he's a biologist who studies, among other things, the physiological adaptations of algae to their environments. That includes macroalgae, large marine plants that are also known as seaweeds.
Amsler made his first trip to Palmer from December 1985 to March 1986 as a volunteer field assistant with a team of researchers from the University of California - Santa Barbara. That team included Amsler's wife, Maggie, a biologist who was then making her fourth trip to Antarctica. She is a member of the current UAB team.
"I wanted to find out why my wife kept leaving me for three months a year," Amsler said. Besides giving him a common ground with his wife, Antarctica grabbed the young researcher's imagination. "I became excited about the scientific opportunities there on that trip and immediately began trying to get back to do my own work."
He returned to Palmer in 1989 at the behest of the National Science Foundation to assess the damage caused by a shipwreck and oil spill off the coast. From March through May 2000, Amsler spent almost three months at Palmer, looking at the chemical defenses of marine organisms as well as plants and endeavoring to understand exactly how they use these chemicals to defend themselves.
In the 11 years between his second and third visits to Palmer, Amsler was part of three research expeditions to McMurdo Station Antarctica. Two of the trips to McMurdo, in 1997 and 1998, were to study the chemical ecology of invertebrates, algae and bacteria and one (right after he came to UAB in 1994) was to study the ecophysiology of microalgae that live in sea ice.
Amsler said he looks forward to this forth trip back to Palmer, which with about 35 researchers in residence is "another world from McMurdo," a station that sometimes has as many as 1,000 people living there.
"Both Palmer and McMurdo are wondrous places to live and to do marine biology," Amsler said, "but they are about as different from one another as two places can be."
One difference is the sea bottom near Palmer, which is dominated by macroalgae.
"There are almost no macroalgae at McMurdo. This, coupled with some of the unique oceanographic characteristics of coastal Antarctica, allows us to pose important new scientific questions that could not be examined anywhere else, including at McMurdo," he said.
"In terms of terrestrial natural history, Palmer has many, many more species of birds and seals. And although we could go the whole trip without seeing a whale, whales can be quite common in the area around the station."
This trip, Amsler will add another duty to his already packed Antarctic schedule the National Science Foundation (NSF) has appointed him station science leader (SSL) throughout his stay at Palmer Station.
"The NSF appoints an SSL whenever multiple science groups are on station," Amsler said. "The SSL is responsible for coordinating all science activities at the station and represents NSF when a senior NSF representative isn't at the station."
Expedition Journal Entries by Charles Amsler, Ph.D.:
Taking the Ocean's Temperature
Posted on 10/30/2001 at 3:30 p.m.
Getting There by Air and by Sea
Posted on 10/20/2001 at 11:30 a.m.
Posted on 10/19/2001 at 8:00 a.m.