About the Project

Palmer Long-Term Ecological Research (PAL-LTER) Study

The scientific research described in the posts on this site is primarily part of the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) program of the National Science Foundation. Palmer Station, on the West Antarctic Peninsula, is one of two Antarctic study sites within the 26-site LTER network. Using new experimental techniques and a robust, long-term data collection and monitoring program, the scientists of the Palmer LTER study site develop and test hypotheses about the changing biology, biogeochemistry, atmospheric chemistry, and physical oceanography of the West Antarctic Peninsula — one of the most rapidly warming regions on earth.

A chart of the area surrounding the station is available here as a PDF.

While in Antarctica, the author is part of the Palmer study’s biogeochemistry working group, under the direction of Prof. Hugh Ducklow of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The biogeochemistry group investigates the microbial diversity of the waters of the West Antarctic Peninsula. Marine microbial diversity concerns itself generally with the billions of microorganisms — bacteria and algae — that account for the vast majority of the living biomass in the world’s oceans. Using data on indicators such as bacterial production rates and macronutrient/dissolved organic carbon concentrations, the Palmer biogeochemistry group seeks to understand which microorganisms are in the site’s waters and why.

The Author’s Ph.D. Research

While at Palmer Station, the author is also investigating how these microorganisms “communicate” among themselves about the various sources of stress in their environment. Jamie’s project focuses specifically on the chemical mechanisms by which these organisms respond to ultraviolet radiation, a source of intense oxidative stress that arrives in Antarctica at high doses in the austral spring as a result of legacy anthropogenic ozone depletion. Using both laboratory experiments and chemical analysis of water samples from the surface ocean around the station, the research examines how specific compounds in the organisms’ cellular membranes — intact polar lipids — are affected by ultraviolet-B-induced oxidative stress.