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UAB in Antarctica
You have to be a jack of all trades to carry out science at an Antarctic research station. Moving stuff is one of them. Our UAB team’s arrival at Palmer Station yesterday was celebratory; four of us were reunited with old friends, two rejoiced in a newfound home. Today, the celebration is over. Time to move in.

First on the day’s agenda comes moving in to your room. Nobody gets their own private room. Too many folks, too few rooms. Space is a valuable commodity at a remote science station, sort of like the international space station. Duffle bags, suitcases, bags of cold weather clothing are lugged up to the second floor of the Bio Lab (tiny dorm rooms) or the GWR building (slightly bigger tiny dorm rooms). Lucky room dwellers find a view of the glacier out their window, others peer at a metal roof top or shipping vans with something a bit more scenic beyond.

We unpack; hanging, shelving, and stuffing drawers with personal clothes. Bedding is sequestered down the hall in the linen room. We choose from the stacks of old washed sheets, then blankets of myriad colors and textures.


Second on the ‘move in’ agenda comes our research laboratory. ‘Consumables’ such as glassware, rubber gloves, pipette tips, indelible ink pens, etc., meticulously ordered many months earlier, await us in boxes stacked on bench-tops. CJ and Michelle unbox. Maggie directs the battlefield, strategically linking item location with future task. Shelves and drawers are labeled. Flasks are shelved in cabinets, scissors in drawers, cleaning supplies stashed under sinks. Andrew, a doctoral student on our team from the University of South Florida, sets up a rotary evaporator and a gas chromatograph to aid our research on bioactive chemical compounds in Antarctic seaweeds and invertebrates.


Our third and final ‘move in’ for the day is in to an office. Some of us have been allocated office space, others find a small bit of bench top in the lab, or in a pinch, more transitory space in the station library or computer room. We pull out our laptops and station IT-guru, Jeff Otten, checks to make sure each computer has proper updates and virus protection. We pull out our books, pens, manuscripts, and assorted camera gear. At long last, we tack up a photo of a loved one, perch open a recent birthday card, or tape an image of a tropical beach to the wall. Only now have we truly ‘moved in.’