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Jason Orfanon from National Public Radio stands atop a glacier next to Palmer Station LTER in Antarctica. (Photo: Jim Janoso)

From Pole to Pole, MBL Science Journalists Join Climate Change Research

From the Arctic to the Antarctic, three journalists in the MBL Science Journalism Fellowship Program have been able to view first hand the effects of climate change in areas that are warming faster than anywhere else in the world.

In late November , Scott Canon from the Kansas City Star, Jason Orfanon from National Public Radio and Angela Posada-Swafford from the Spanish magazine, Muy Interesante, arrived at the Palmer Station Long Term Ecological Research program site in Antarctica for a three-week stay.With them was Ecosystems Center scientist Christopher Neill, who accompanied them to the MBL’s Toolik Lake LTER site in Alaska in 2008.

Over the next three weeks, the journalists worked closely with scientists at Palmer Station , receivin g hands-on training in some of the methods of ecosystems science and observ ing first-hand how long-term research by the Palmer LTER is documenting a changing world.

The journalists undert ook two research projects. Like their scientific colleagues, they formed hypotheses, design experiments, conduct experiments, analyze data and discuss findings. The research topics included following the spring phytoplankton bloom, investigating the effects of penguin guano runoff on microbial communities in seawater, and surveying land plant colonization of newly-exposed areas following glacier retreat.

Chinstrap penguin gets airborne in front of glacier. (Photo: Chris Neill)
They also accompan ied the three LTER teams in residence at Palmer during their field research. With Hugh Ducklow’s team from the MBL, they stud ied microbial processes and ocean biogeochemistry. With Rutgers University’s Oscar Schofield and his team, they looked at phytoplankton ec ology and primary production, and with Bill Fraser’s Polar Oceans Research Group, they observed penguin foraging and breeding.

The journalists and Neill posted to their blog, Palmer Station Field Journal. This blog also has links to blogs by each of the journalists.

Maggie Waldron, research assistant at the Ecosystems Center, and Ángela Posada-Swafford, MBL Logan Science Journalism Fellow, at the first live interactive videoconference transmission from Torgersen Island via wireless internet. About 400 people, including children, parents and professors, watched at five science museums in Colombia, Chile and Mexico. Waldron and Posada-Swafford answered questions about research being conducted at the Long Term Ecological Research site at Palmer Station, Antarctica. Tortensen Island is about a quarter mile from Palmer Station. (Photo: Jeff Otten)