Antarctic video gallery
Heard Island timelapse
The ICECAP project exploring the east Antarctic ice sheet
Australian Antarctic Division scientist to sequence Krill genome
Dr Bruce Deagle:
My name is Dr Bruce Deagle and I am just starting out at the AAD as Post-Doctoral Fellow working on krill genomics. My undergraduate degree was in ecology and when I started to do postgraduate work I started using genetics to understand animal ecology and I have really been doing that for the past 10 years.
The main part of the project is really getting the genetic blueprint of Antarctic krill under control. There’s a lot of new genetic technology that’s available just in the last few years and so we can apply those techniques to get the genetic blueprint. This genomic research, I guess, will just provide a baseline for understanding how the krill will actually adapt to things like climate change and ocean acidification. It gives us the finest scale tool possible to understand how an organism reacts to change and if they will be able to react.
The krill genome is essentially like a map and a resource that can be used for future scientists. So once we have the first krill genome sequence produced we can actually put it on the web and internationally researchers can use this information to design any sort of genetics study they might see fit. So it’s only a first step and it’s a resource that can be used by all Antarctic researchers.
I think there s a real revolution going on in the DNA technology world so this project is really going to bring the AAD into the new field of genomics and so this will be a first for the sequencing of a krill genome. Being a geneticist at this particular point in time is very exciting just because of all the new technology that’s available and working again with the Antarctic division is wonderful for me. So I think it’s going to be an excellent project.
Mertz Glacier voyage
Voyage 3 highlights
Graham Cook – Davis station leader 2011
Davis Station Leader Graham Cook:
Hi I’m Graham Cook, commonly known as Cookie, I’m off to Davis this winter. This is my fourth trip to Antarctica. I’ve been a station leader at Mawson, Davis and Casey in the past, I have a background in people and project management and I head South because I love it. As a 12 year old I read a book about Frank Hurley called “Once more on my adventure” and was inspired to work in Antarctica as a result of reading that book. It took me till I was about 52 to get there, so I am pretty slow, but I did get there.
Your first trip to Antarctica and any subsequent trip after that is an absolutely amazing experience. My first iceberg was quite a small iceberg but wow it was amazing. My first time cracking through sea ice, I stood on the bow of the ship with several other people and one of them said to me, “I’m sorry I’ve got tears in my eyes”, and I said “So have I”, and the person next to me said “Well so have I”. It ended up five of us on the bow of the ship had tears in our eyes from this amazing first experience. Once you get through the ice and step on the land it’s the culmination of a dream, pretty amazing stuff.
Davis has a major infrastructure program this summer to finish off a new LQ (Living Quarters) there. A lot of exciting science, there’s a fair size flying program which will take some of our Geoscience Australia guys into the Prince Charles mountains. We have some Chinese working with our AAD scientists at Amanda Rookery with emperor penguins. We have some guys doing some snorkelling looking at the near shore marine environment and the impacts of our habitation and other impacts like ocean acidification. Work on the Amery Ice shelf and some comings and goings between the stations. Which is going to make it an exciting summer and a few programs during the winter that will keep us busy as well.
Working through the winter there is a few challenges for the station leader. Some of those are the separation issues, it’s not unusual for relationships to either end or become fragile, so you work with your expeditioners through those. There’s obviously the community living type things, we live together, we have a long period of darkness and sometimes we are not that happy with one other, but we work through that and nut it out and usually end up a fairly happy family by the end of it.
This winter there’s a few things that I would like to do, I would like to explore some of the areas of Davis that I didn’t get to see last time. I get a great deal of pleasure out of watching the people that are there for the first time enjoy the place and hopefully can show them some places that add to the enjoyment that they have.
Fuel munching microbes help clean up Antarctica
Environmental Scientist and Field Manager Tim Spedding:
We work on a number of projects looking at the remediation of contaminated sites in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic and that involves looking at old fuel spills and remediating and assessing old fuel spills as well as looking at the best technologies to remediate old tip sites.
Australia does have certain obligations under the Madrid Protocol and that doesn’t necessarily mean full scale remediation but certainly would involve a recognition and risk management of old tip sites and old fuel spills. Almost all of the impacts related to Australian activity in Antarctica are around the old stations, there’s an effect on the soil and the water. There is always the risk of further migration of contaminants and then you will certainly have impacts on wildlife as well. But one of the biggest things certainly with fuel is that visible sheen on the water which is an aesthetic issue as well as toxicological issue.
At Casey we have a team of seven people working on both fuel spill at the main powerhouse, as well as the old tip site at Thala Valley – looking at the final clean up of that. At Casey we have been working for the last 5 or 6 years on the containment of a fuel spill we’ve installed a permeable reactive barrier which basically intercepts any contaminated water flowing from the contaminated area and preventing it from migrating into the ocean and into fresh water lakes.
This year we are also looking at bio-piles, rather than dealing with the material in-situ we actually end up excavating the material and treating it in stockpiles and then once remediated you can return the clean soil back to where it was excavated from.
Fuel is just a source of food for a lot of micro-organisms that naturally occur in the soil and really all we try to do is create the best environment for those micro-organisms to live and break down that fuel, thereby remediating that soil. So what we do is we end up adding oxygen, aerating the soil, as well as adding nutrients, using nitrogen and some phosphorous, again just to encourage the micro-organisms to be very active in degrading and breaking down the fuel in the soil.
At Macquarie Island we have an ongoing fuel remediation program there around the old fuel farm as well as the main powerhouse and we have a team of three people going down there this year. We are using the same principles of encouraging the micro-organisms to break the fuel down. But what we are doing is aerating the soil, so we haven’t excavated the soil at all, we are dealing with contaminated area as it is and we are injecting air as well as nutrients into the ground.
The way most Antarctic nations, and certainly Australia, operate in the Antarctic has changed considerably in terms of waste management practices, certainly over the last 10–15 years. Australian operations these days, almost all of the material that is taken down south that isn’t used is returned to Australia, which is a major step forward.
Mark Williams – Mawson station leader 2011
Mawson Station Leader Mark Williams:
My name’s Mark Williams I’m from Brisbane in Queensland and I am a Police Officer by occupation. I am going down to Mawson for the winter of 2011.
I have been in the Police for over 30 years now and most of that time was spent with criminal investigation anything from basic crime, right through to murders. I love the outdoors, I am tri-athlete, I go bushwalking, surfing, it’s going to be a challenge to realign the things I like to do down south. I’ve looked for this sort of a job for the last 10 years. It’s an opportunity to do something that is really different and to follow in the footsteps of some of the greatest explorers that Australia has ever known.
I’ve worked with people for many years, I really enjoy the interaction with people. The opportunity to work in a small environment with very enthusiastic people is something that I have always dreamed of and to be a platform for the launching of some great scientific expeditions, in particular the Adelie penguins.
Some of the challenges I may face over the next year will be during the winter period, when we have periods of darkness and really bad weather and to keep the morale of the people high and keep them busy so they continue to enjoy their stay.
I am the luckiest guy on earth, if you asked me could I pick a station to go to, I would have picked Mawson. I have been a fan of Sir Douglas Mawson for many many years and to go to Mawson station as the Station Leader for a year is probably one of the highlights of my life.
Animation of krill mating in the Southern Ocean
Do krill have sex?
Here is what we know:
First there is the Chase.
Second in the Probe.
Third is the Embrace.
Fourth is Flex.
Fifth is Push.
Footage of krill mating in the Southern Ocean
Krill swarm at 507m off East Antarctica