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10 January, 1997

Hi Everyone: Have you figured out what a PI is yet? Around this place it is a very important person. These are the people who write grants to secure funding for their science projects. They get the ideas, make up a plan of action and write a proposal that might look a bit like a 20 page term paper. The support materials include budgets, references, vitas (do you know what a vita is?)and evidence of prior success. Instead of getting a grade on their work, they must convince an agency with money that their ideas are valid, will cortribute significantly to the scientific knowledge base and have a reasonalby good chance of being successful. To write such a proposal, the PI must have reference evidence that supports the likelihood of success or that the information being sought is worthy of knowing for the good of humankind. When successful, the grant of large sums of money pay for all of the materials, equipment supplies, logistical support and salaries of the people with whom the PI will work to accomplish their plan. A successful PI can then hire lab techs and post doctoral fellows to help with the experimentation. The PIs around here have the big ideas and the Antarctic Support Associates are paid to help make the science happen. There are 10 ASA people for every 1 scientist working on a project. Do you know why the ratio is so high? Would it be the same if questions were being asked in a different environment?

I have a great opportunity to tell you about. This month there will be three live from Antarctica broadcasts on television. This is an electronic field trip to the Palmer Station on the Palmer Penisula. The project will take place at the time of year when you can see baby seals and penguins still in their birth colonies.

The first broadcast is scheduled for January 23, 1997 on PBS live from the Polar Duke research vessel. They will look at how the global climate changes affects organisms like krill, plankton and other animals. January 30 will broadcast live from a penguin rookery close to Palmer Station. They will also look at skuas, a large sea gull like predatory bird. The third program will be on Feb 6, 1997. This program will look at the idea that research in the Antarctic can be thought of as a canary test. Do you know what that is? Do you know why we can think of Antarctic research research as a canary test?

I am still at McMurdo will all flights still cancelled. There is increasing competition for computer time as we have to share this one set with more and more people. It does seem to be warming up and clearing a bit today. Tomorrow I think we will be able to leave.

Today I spoke with the UNAVCO people. They work with the global position satellites (GPS) for accurately measuring change in position. This system uses two sensors, one as a base known point and the other is variable. The signal is bounced off the satellite to a receiver and can take readings every 20 minutes. It measures to within less than a centimeter. Processing differential GPS data will tell you how much movement has occured. In the dry valley we use this mechanism to measure how fast and far the Canada glacier is moving into the valley.

Here is another thing to think about. The air field is out on the Ross Ice Shelf that connects land to the sea. It is 200+ meters thick. Do you think is moves with the tide since the open ocean is underneath the sea ice and the shekf? How could you answer this question? Share your ideas with your buddies and tell me what you think.

My PI, Dr. Robert Warton is having his research project with the Long Term Environmental Research (LTER)program visited by a site review committee from the funding agency. There is a team of 5 people hear to evaluate the research and make recommendations. I am sure we all will be glad when the weather clears and we can all go to our respective places, the review team can go home and I can go to the dry valley. More later.

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