The answer is a place where “summer” means very brief forays above freezing temperatures: Antarctica, the most mysterious of the earth’s continents, a paradox of barren land surrounded by teeming waters.
Antarctica — specifically, the National Science Foundation’s McMurdo Station — is the home of the NSF-funded International Graduate Training Course in Antarctic Marine Biology, an exceptionally selective and enduring program for would-be polar scientists.
“It was the first formal graduate training program held on the seventh continent. No group of graduate students had ever been to Antarctica before on this scale,” says Donal Manahan, founder of the program and director of the Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies at the USC College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Manahan and a small group of colleagues have been accompanying some of the world’s best young biologists to Antarctica since 1994. More than 200 faculty and students representing 30 nations have participated to date.
In 2010, anyone can follow along.
From January 4 to February 1, visit this blog for a look over the shoulders of polar scientists as they study the marine life that surrounds Antarctica. One of the group’s biggest goals: learning to work in teams to understand and predict the reaction of living things to climate change.
“It’s really a moon shot of a field trip, in some ways. You bring very bright people and you plunk them on the moon for the first time. What would you discover?” Manahan asks.
Some will make discoveries that will start them on a brilliant career. Some will decide that polar science is not for them. All will have a life-changing experience on the “highest, driest, windiest” continent, as Manahan describes it.
Check summerinantarctica.usc.edu regularly for dispatches, photos and videos from Manahan and the program’s students.
To learn more about the NSF-funded training program, visit antarctica.usc.edu.
Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen
A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
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22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy