Five-person teams travel to Palmer Station (64°46’ S, 64°04’ W) on the Antarctic Peninsula to study and collect flies (Belgic antarctica). Each year the team arrives in early January during the Antarctic summer to collect the insects from nearby islands where winter snow and ice have melted. Some team members remain through May to study seasonal changes in the fly larvae as they prepare for the long, harsh winter.
Belgica antarctica live in moist areas, under rocks or moss, or outwash areas adjacent to penguin rookeries and can be collected with a spoon and a tool called a pouter used to suck insects into a container through a straw. The insects are taken back to the research laboratories at Palmer Station, cleaned, sorted, and kept refrigerated so that experiments can be run at the base or specimens sent back to home labs for further study.
For eight seasons, Richard Lee has included a K-12 teacher on his Antarctic team to help conduct fieldwork and spearhead outreach to U.S. classrooms. These teachers have communicated with thousands of students and their teachers and planned authentic outreach activities that engage them with real-time polar research.