Antarctica is a land of extremes. It is the southernmost, coldest and driest continent. Governed by international treaty, Antarctica has no cities or towns, but is visited by thousands of people each year, including scientists. Geophysicists , biologists and planetary astronomers gather in Antarctica to study its unique and fragile ecosystem, collect climate data from our planet’s past and test robotic equipment that could one day explore our solar system to search for life beyond Earth.
This month, we invited three scientists whose work is directly related to Antarctica to discuss the potential of this “continent for science”.
Peter Roopnarine, Curator of Geology, Department of Invertebrate Zoology & Geology, Institute for Biodiversity Science and Sustainability, California Academy of Sciences, and has studied ecosystems in extreme environments and how a planet emerges from a snowball to become a diverse biosphere.
Tyler Mackey, Postdoctoral Fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology focuses his research on habitats of the cryosphere and has dived in the lakes of the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica to study records of microbial activity.
Ariel Waldman, citizen scientist and artist, just recently came back from an expedition in Antarctica where she filmed microbes living within glaciers, under the sea ice, and in subglacial ponds. While there, she also shadowed various research teams, including a mission testing an autonomous underwater vehicle.
Beyond understanding the past life of our planet, Antarctica is a great platform to study life in an extreme environment. This month’s speakers are explorers who travel to the bottom of Earth to search for and characterize life with instruments that could one day explore Europa’s ocean. They’ll share their thoughts on Earth’s cryogenic past, when the surface was entirely or partially frozen, and discuss how their work in Antarctica is related to understanding its impact on the expansion of complex multicellular life.
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