DrHi everyone! Due to some unforeseen delays, we are still in Christchurch, New Zealand and are hoping to board the RV/IB Palmer in the next few days and depart for East Antarctica shortly thereafter. On behalf of my co-Principal Investigator Ken Halanych, I wanted to give a brief rundown of our project goals. Since Ken and I started our collaborative work in Antarctica, being able to go to and collect samples from East Antarctica has been in our sights.
Our work is to try and understand what environmental factors have shaped patterns of present-day biodiversity in Antarctic benthic marine invertebrates. In particular, my lab focuses our studies primarily on sea spiders. Historical evidence from other studies has shown a number of ice shelf collapses in the last few million years. During these periods, transantarctic seaways connected the Ross and Weddell Seas. What we will be focusing on during this cruise is collection of animals living on the bottom of the ocean that will allow us to see whether the presence of transantarctic waterways helps explain observed similarities between the Ross and Weddell Seas benthic marine invertebrate organisms better than other current hypotheses (e.g., dispersal by the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, or expansion from common glacial refugia). Additionally, we will use our collections to investigate biodiversity in the region that hasn’t even been visited by the U.S. Antarctic program for the last 20 years!
Dr. Andy Mahon (Chief Scientist)
Central Michigan University
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