Leading marine researchers from UAB will be diving into the icy Antarctic waters on this expedition in February-June 2010. The veteran team is in familiar waters as they explore undersea forests to collect macroalgae, sponges and more. The expedition, funded by a grant of the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs , is part of their ongoing quest to understand predator-prey dynamics in the unique Antarctic marine plant and animal communities.
UAB biologists Charles D. Amsler, Ph.D., and James B. McClintock, Ph.D., along with chemist Bill Baker, Ph.D., from the University of South Florida are at Antarctica's Palmer Station on the western Antarctic Peninsula. The three are one of the premier teams in Antarctic biology research. Joining Amsler, McClintock, and Baker on the expedition are UAB researcher Maggie Amsler, M.S. and UAB Ph.D. students Ruth McDowell and Kate Schoenrock.
This expedition continues the work of previous journeys, the most recent being February 2008. The team's work this time will focus on understanding how Antarctica's marine ecosystem works, in particular the very important roles of small shrimp-like animals called amphipods in structuring the marine communities.
Their fieldwork would surprise many people. "The marine plant community of Antarctica is very lush, rich flora," Amsler said. "I tell people that there are forests in Antarctica. That they just have to look under the ocean to see them."
All the chemicals the team works with and discovers are sent to the National Cancer Institute and the UAB Cystic Fibrosis Center. One of the compounds they have found has been shown to kill four kinds of melanoma.
Important to the researchers is the educational outreach of the program. Through antarctica.uab.edu, students of all ages have the opportunity to ask the researchers questions about living and working in Antarctica.
Updated for this expedition, the Web site is a resource that builds on itself. Users can contribute their own knowledge, images and viewpoints as well as follow our team of researchers as they post pictures and blog on their site from The Ice. These resources go beyond the traditional media release and reach out to everyone who is interested in Antarctica, the environment, education, diving.