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UAB in Antarctica

In some ways it feels like we just got here. In others, it is as if we’ve been away from home for very long. I always look forward to coming to Palmer. And when the team’s season is coming to a close, I always look forward to getting home. Next week, we’ll be on our way home to summer from a station becoming more and more wintery as each day proceeds.

   We’ve had a very successful season here. Kate’s outplant experiments (described in her “One alga, two algae, red alga, blue alga…” post) are done and she is spending a lot of time analyzing the data along with continuing some related lab experiments. We successfully recovered all of the concrete substrates that her plants were attached to. It is the second time we’ve used the same substrates for an experiment out in the field (also once in an aquarium experiment).  The facilities folks here did an excellent job building them for us in 2004!

   Ruth is still keeping busy making her algae glow in the dark. She’s learned a lot about “Oxygen as a chemical weapon.”  She has also prepared a fair number of chemical extracts and has flash-frozen fresh algae for experiments she’ll be doing back at UAB. As all good science does, her season has answered important questions and raised new ones.

   I’m sure that Maggie will never lose her “Passion for Pods” even as she is winding down her experiments with them for this season. She has been spending a great deal of time with a project involving Paradexamine fissicauda, or as she told you, “Paradex” for short. It is a species we’ve worked on very little before and it turns out to be able to eat some, but not all, of the chemically-defended red algae. Story to be continued in the marine biology literature.

    Jim has been home for a while now but his time here was well spent. And he was able to represent the team with the news media in Birmingham when we spoke to them from here via Skype and after our virtual field trip with Alabama high schools (Maggie’s “Fun with Technology” and my “Reaching Out and Pulling Up” posts).

    And oh yes, Kate’s “iceberg friend” Harrold Bergman is still grounded out in Arthur Harbor, the body of water that is off the station. He’s lost some weight though as pieces have broken off and he has occasionally rolled over.  But he’s still blocking my view of Killer Whale Rocks (my “surge-o-meter”) from the window of the science office. So I still have to walk up the hill to see it as a gauge of how rough the surge will be where we want to dive that day.

     It has been a great season of diving. Kate, Ruth, and I have all talked about different aspects of our preparations for diving here and about the actual “dive ops” themselves. We have videos up on the YouTube channel that cover pretty much all aspects. If you haven’t had a look, click on the link to the right or directly here on http://www.youtube.com/sublittoral and scroll down through the offerings.

   Of the seven times our chemical ecology project has been at Palmer, we have only made more research dives in two of the seasons. In both of those, however, we had a dive team come in 5-6 weeks before the main group to get started on collections. So those were much longer seasons overall. Personally, in the 12 of my trips to Antarctica that have involved diving, I’ve only made more dives once.  

   The sad part of leaving, of course, is saying goodbye to our USF colleagues Alan and Jason after we all get to Chile, and also to our friends who will stay here for the winter. There are 18 folks who, when we sail north next week, will not see anyone else until the ship comes back in September. Some are old friends from previous seasons, many are new friends we just met when their Fresh Faces arrived with the Fruit and Fish. They are a great crew, and I’m positive that they’ll have a wonderful winter here.

   I’m just as positive that Maggie, Ruth, Kate, and I will have a wonderful summer and autumn back at UAB. And that we’ll all be looking forward to heading back here to Palmer when the time comes next February. As you’ve read so many times in our posts, it is truly an exceptional place, filled with special people. Thank you for letting us share some of our experiences here this season with you. Now, though, it is time to head north – towards home.

   Sweet home Alabama...