Gretchen Hoffman, an ecologist who leads research in Antarctica’s McMurdo Sound, penned an Op-Ed in Nature, published Oct. 18. Her piece gives a first-hand account of the U.S. Government shutdown’s effects on Antarctic research.
She cites several specific projects that have been greatly affected. One is looking at urchins’ response to ocean acidification and warming, while another is investigating ice-sheet dynamics. The urchin project may be scuttled, she says, since urchin samples need to be collected in early October, right when the shutdown began. Warmer temperatures may also render it unsafe to travel on ice sheets under study.
Despite a passed funding bill that ended the shutdown, Hoffman says the few weeks lost have resulted in data gaps and instruments that may be lost due to fickle Antarctic weather. She says the new funding deal struck by Congress only extends support until January 2014, which is before the end of the Antarctic research season.
Image: McMurdo Station, Antarctica (Credit: Gaelen Marsden, Wikimedia Commons)