26 October, 1999
I'd like to devote today's journal to what I will be doing in the Dry Valleys. (Materials below taken from 1999 -2000 Science Planning Summary of the Unites States Antarctic Program)
McMurdo Dry Valleys: A Cold Desert Ecosystem Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER)
Dr. W. Berry Lyons, Project manager
University of Alabama
The McMurdo Dry Valleys are located on the western coast of McMurdo Sound and form the largest ice free area in Antarctic. In 1993 this area became part of the National Science Foundation's Long Term Ecological Research program (LTER) as a representative of one of the coldest and most extreme deserts in the world.
The living things found in the Dry Valleys consist only of microbes, microinvertebrates (nematodes), mosses and lichens. Nevertheless, there are complex relationships and cycles that exist in the soil, lakes and streams of the Dry Valleys. Sunlight during the austral summer causes some glacial melting. This melt water is responsible to a large degree for replenishing the water and nutrients of this ecosystem. This parcticular ecosystem is influenced greatly by climate and material transport.
The overall objective of the LTER project of the Dry Valleys is to understand the influence of physical and biological constraints and the structure and function of this parcticular ecosystem. These objectives will be accomplished through a program of systematic environmental data collection, long tem experiments and model development. (Use the scientific method to gather information, form conclusions and then build a model. Remember models do two things: account for observable facts and then enable you to make predictions. (Think of a sealed can that you shake and hear sloshing. The observed fact is the sloshing, the model is that there is a partially liquid filled space, the prediction would be if I froze this, the sloshing would stop.) This same concept of model building will be applied to the biological and physical (temperature, wind, topography, etc) observations that are made and from this predictions will be made.)
The McMurdo LTER project will emphasize the integration of the biological processes within and material transport betweens, streams, lakes, and the terrestrial ecosystems in the dry valleys.
The specific investigations of this years field work are as follows:
Evaluate lake dynamics using Helium isotopes
(Same atomic number different atomic mass)
Look at the carbon and nitrogen isotope signatures in the
lakes (How, where and how much of these
materials are found in these lakes.
Determine the hydrologic balance
Evaluate the role of wind as a link amongst streams, lakes and soils
Look at the chemistry of the meltwater streams on the glacial surface
This is the overall plan for all this years field work. My work is specifically known as BM-042-L: Chemistry of streams, lakes and glaciers.
We will be monitoring the inorganic chemistry of water collected from streams, glaciers and lakes of the Dry Valleys. We will work out of Lake Hoare, Lake Fryxell and Lake Bonney field camps. Rocks and water samples will be collected for helium analysis to provide data on the age of glacial deposits, on the water budget and the age of the lakes. We will travel by helicopter throughout the area gathering samples. The goal is to characterize the dissolved and suspended load (materials) in the streams. As I understand it most of my work will be at the Lake Hoare site.
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