18 October, 1997

18 October 97

I have mentioned before how meals at McMurdo Station are a social activity. Conversation is very lively and the people are very interesting. Today at lunch I sat next to Dr. Kathleen Reedy. Dr. Reedy is an administrator at the Food and Drug Administration in Washington, D.C. She is here with a research team studying the effects of the Antarctic environment on humans. Findings indicate that people who are "winter overs" (spend the winter in Antarctica) have lower levels of thyroid hormone in the brain. This is related to measurable loss of short term memory.

The reason I mention Dr. Reedy is that she was raised in Blasdell, NY - a suburb of Buffalo. Buffalo, of course, is where I teach. I've met about a half dozen other people who have spent some part of their life in Buffalo or the surrounding area. Considering that McMurdo Station has a population of about 700 at this time it reinforces the old saying that "it's a small world."

Well, today I did another protein assay on starfish tube feet. Unfortunately, I did not get the kind of data that would make me feel confident enough to go forward with my project. I'm going to have to keep doing this until I can nail down the source of my error and correct it.

I won't be doing another assay tomorrow, however. Dr. Marsh, Dr. Maxson, and myself are going to Cape Evans to collect sea urchins for our developmental studies. This is the trip we had planned to take a week ago, but had to cancel due to bad weather. I wrote about Cape Evans' rich history in my journal entry of 11 October. Try to go to that entry and reread about this site.

I've found that when I'm out walking on the ice my mind fills with vivid thoughts of what it must have been like for the hardy men who parcticipated in those early expeditions. I'm sure this experience is heightened by the fact that on the ice there is no evidence of life except for an occasional seal or penguin. It seems like a different planet. Small islands may rise sharply from out of the ice. They are volcanic in origin., black, and barren. The landscape reminds me of the moon's surface.

Things to ponder:

Part of the discussion with Dr. Reedy concerned the reasons for the metabolic changes that apparently affect people here. One person said that this was evidence that humans were adapting to the extreme cold of the Antarctic. Dr. Reedy stated that what was happening biochemically was similar to some of the chemical events associated with hibernation.

1. Brainstorm and try to think of reasons why humans may possess at least some hibernation chemistry. Do you think this type of change is a uniquely human thing, or do you think humans may have inherited the ability to do this from earlier mammalian (or non-mammalian) ancestors? Why?

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