Challenging Habitat Blog

The Antarctic Quest 21 expedition is gathering momentum in more than one way:

  • scientific and expedition equipment is being accumulated
  • transport logistics are being arranged
  • the crowd funding effort has exceeded the initial target of £30,000 and new rewards are made available for the final push to reach the ‘stretch’ target of £50,000
  • …and lots of other things continue to happen in the background…

And still, more scientific projects are added to the expedition portfolio: the team is collecting data for NASA’s GLOBE project, and we are talking with another scientist from the University of Plymouth about sampling to help elucidate the biogeography of the Antarctic continent, with focus on invertebrates. A potentially exciting addition to the strong emphasis on climate change and pollution research you can already read more about here.

Only a few days left to support this expedition through our Crowdfunding Page – you can donate or purchase one of the exclusive rewards, which now includes a fabulous, signed, photo book charting the journey across the ice!

If you want to get an impression of how much work is behind those modelling results we are seeing on the news most days?

I’ve started to narrate some of the most recent peer-reviewed publications of the scientists for which the Antarctic Quest 21 expedition will collect data…the first one is about Dr Andrew Smedley’s work on how sunlight interacts with bubbles in blue ice.

Read it here: https://www.antarcticquest21.com/blog.html

I’ve been blogging for a while about the Antarctic Quest 21 expedition that will take a team of eight onto the Forbidden Plateau on the central spine of the Antarctic Peninsula to install scientific equipment and down to the shores of the Weddell Sea to do some more of the same…see my previous posts here and here.

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See and hear what it takes to get scientific data from the heart of the Antarctic Peninsula.

Antarctic Quest 21 team and patrons have published their first story video, and as I guess that Forces Net is not the usual channel for most of you, below is a link.

It’s worth a watch, even if the video fails to represent all the scientific project the expedition will support – you can always check that out on the AQ21 website and by reading my ECO Magazine article.

Featured Image credit: British Services Antarctic Expedition 2012 (BSAE2012)

I am excited to highlight the special edition of ECO Magazine that celebrates the start of the UN Ocean Decade.

My article What is your next step against climate change tells the story of Antarctic Quest 21, an expedition planned for the forthcoming Austral summer on the Antarctic Pensinsula. Antarctic Quest 21 supports pollution and climate science through direct observations and installation of scientific equipment that will collect data for years to come.

Coring during the British Services Antarctic Expedition 2012 on the Antarctic Peninsula. Photo credit: BSAE2012.

Pelican has been in Albion Dockyard for maintenance and is now ‘shipshape and Bristol fashion’, an expression that, according to our captain Ben Wheatley, was coined here, as a reflection of the superb craftsmanship of shipwrights in this historic dock.

Before leaving, we commissioned a TriLux fluorescence sensor on loan from Chelsea Technologies. For me, it is always a delight to ‘play’ with a new instrument, and this one did not disappoint: easy to operate, no-nonsense data logging and seamless plug-and-play with our laptop. ‘Shipshape’, too!

The science coordinators Rachel, Miles and Hannah on the poop deck of Pelican, discussing the method of our first deployment of TriLux for a depth profile in Albion Dock.

We’ll use TriLux for spot sampling of depth profiles along a Secchi disk to determine key algal parameters involved in photosynthesis (chlorophyll a and phycoerythrin), as well as turbidity.

TriLux sensor, cable and Hawk data logger from Chelsea Technologies.

We will contribute our data to the Secchi Disk Foundation, who research the global distribution of primary producers that underpin the marine food web.

Going to sea again – a special treat in a time when UK covid lockdown is pealed away layer by layer, like the skins of an onion.

We are aboard tall ship Pelican of London in Albion Dock, with just a shed and the dry dock’s lock gate separating us from the SS Great Britain.

An awe-inspiring adventure of sail training and citizen science awaits a young voyage crew: a 13 week long circumnavigation of the British Isles!

We will study the natural environment and invasive species, collect litter from the beaches and study sea weed for signs of climate change.

The data we collect will support a range of organisations, such as the Sea Watch Foundation, Marine Conservation Society and Secchi Disk Foundation, in their efforts to understand the most pressing issues of our times: climate change and biodiversity loss.

Follow Seas Your Future and Darwin200 to learn about the powerful combination of sailing and science to transform our connection with nature and perspective.

At the University of Plymouth, we will celebrate World Ocean Day with a conference for schools that showcases our expertise in marine research and technology in the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

Our exciting programme of talks covers all scales: local to global, pole to pole, plankton to top predators and eons of time in evolution. It also celebrates human ingenuity for investigating and solving the plant’s most pressing challenges.

Learn more and join us at the event via this LINK.

The next Austral summer (2021/22) will see a rare man-hauled expedition across the Antarctic Peninsula. The expedition team will be ‘dropped off’ at Portal Point, haul equipment up steep slopes and cross the Forbidden Plateau (my question is: what’s in a name?) and reach the shores of the Weddell Sea at Foyn Point.

There is something for everybody in this:

  • pollution and climate change research
  • education and outreach for schools and young people
  • celebration of the spirit of the early explorers

With plans for six important scientific projects from the UK, the Netherlands and Australia firming up and the potential to develop great outreach and educational materials, I am happy and excited to support this expedition as scientific advisor.

To learn more about the aims, to discuss adding your own science project, or to take the opportunity to sponsor something really worthwhile, go to the Antarctic Quest 21 website.

Expedition area on the Antarctic Peninsula. BSAE 2012

Image Credits:

Featured Image: British Services Antarctic Expedition 2012 (BSAE2012)
Map: Kate Retallick (data: SCAR Antarctic Digital Database; Landsat 8 data courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey)

This is haunting!

Sperm whales are even more intelligent and organised than we knew, which makes it even more sad and outrageous that we hunted them to near extinction and some of us still do.

Read the ‘easy’ version in the Guardian and the research paper I. The reference therein.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/mar/17/sperm-whales-in-19th-century-shared-ship-attack-information

What have we failed to learn about all the species we eradicated out of greed, ignorance and ‘don’t care attitude?

Cold weather rewards:

I love those little towers of ice extruded from the soil during a mild frost.

I say ‘extruded’ because they are all topped with a little crown of soil (or an acorn), indicating that they have been pushed up.

Perhaps when the ground freezes and the water expands into ice, it can only go up, slowly building overnight?

Near running water, these little sculptures grows to an inch or two before curling over under their own weight (or perhaps in the wind?).

The delicate structure suggest that strands of ice rise from individual soil pores and grow together…

…but if there is anybody reading this who actually knows how they come into being, please get in touch.

Language is important.

This evening, the PM’s announcement of the third COVID-19 lockdown for England went quite well, by BJ’s standards, free of laments about his feelings having to announce bad news, for example…and free of promises that it’s all going to be over by ChristmasSpringsummer

…auto queue helped, of course, to keep on course…

…until he uttered the phrase “miracle of science” in relation to the vaccines.

In science, we don’t do miracles, neither do we believe in miracles. We work systematically and methodically and design experiments to test hypotheses that are based on what was done before and where creativity and innovation takes us.

On the other hand, ‘miracle’ is defined as “an extraordinary event attributed to some supernatural agency” (The concise OED, 8th ed 1990).

Two very different things.

P.S. This post is not about whether another lockdown in England is a good or bad thing. I leave that judgement to people with the appropriate expertise and experience.

Featured image: “Flu Vaccination Grippe” by Daniel Paquet is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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