Our 2018 field team is all present and accounted for here at Palmer Station! Dr.’s Nick Teets, Yuta Kawarasaki, and Ben Phillip arrived about a week ago on the LMG. They didn’t waste any time getting out in the field and started on their projects! We have just under 4 weeks to get a lot accomplished, and time goes by so fast down here on the ice. The next several entries will focus on each of our team member’s projects and how they got into Antarctic research.
Starting us off, your truly.
My name is Leslie, and I am a Ph.D. student of Nick Teets. I started in his lab about 2 years ago focusing my research on overwintering wolf spiders in Kentucky. Back home, I study the impacts of winter warming on juvenile wolf spiders’ physiology and ecology. Not a lot has been done with spiders in the winter, so a lot of my research is trying to answer basic questions of their cold-tolerance, and effects of overwintering on their nutrition and ecological roles. Right now, my projects include simulating warmer winter conditions as predicted by climate change trends and how these may impact the spiders’ ability to remain active. I’ve also got projects answering how the spiders’ nutrients and diet impact overwintering survival, and their biochemical adaptations to surviving winter.
When Nick asked if I wanted to go to Antarctica to study the midge, I couldn’t believe it! I knew he had been down in the past, and that he was affiliated with both PI’s on the grant, but I never thought that I would be able to come down! This has been a wonderful experience, both personally and professionally, and I will forever be grateful for this opportunity. My official role on our 2018 team is the outreach and education coordinator. Each year our team has brought down a professional educator to facilitate bringing the research we do to the community, and reach a broader audience. Nick asked me to fill this role, as my career goal is to become a small-college professor, where teaching and education are my main duties. I am working with local children’s museums, schools and colleges back home in Lexington, Kentucky to bring our research to them. We have a live video session with one of the museums next week, and we’re able to have it outside with a view of the glacier and any penguins for the kids!
Besides my outreach component, I am also conducting a field study with Belgica. With my interests in how physiology can impact ecology, I am collecting microhabitat data from areas where we collect midges. On five islands, I collect samples and record data from twenty plots along a transect. I collect moss, algae and grass for nutrient and microbe analyses, bring back substrate to count for midges, springtails and mites, and record the temperature and moisture of the substrate. My hope is to gain more understanding of the conditions Belgica live in, and hopefully a little more of the interactions between them and other players in the ecosystem. This is all done here at Palmer. I’m also planning a more controlled lab study when we return home, with midges and a common substrate, to measure any changes the midge causes in nutrient and microbe measurements.