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ARS BrownBagger Features Antarctica Talk

 

Lake Hoare camp in Taylor Valley, Antarctica, which serves as the research hub within the valley.

Part travelogue and part research talk, the latest presentation in the 2017 BrownBagger Series at the USDA Agricultural Research Service's Sidney lab will take participants to "the bottom of the earth" to study nematodes in rare isolation.

On Friday, Feb. 17, Dr. Zachary Sylvain, currently a Research Associate at the Sidney ARS lab, will discuss his prior research in Antarctica under the auspices of the U.S. National Science Foundation. His presentation is entitled "Science at the bottom of the world - Ecological research in Antarctica," and runs from noon to 1 pm at the USDA-ARS Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory (NPARL), 1500 N. Central Avenue, Sidney.

According to Sylvain, the National Science Foundation supports a wide variety of research in Antarctica, including the McMurdo Dry Valleys Long-Term Ecological Research group, in which he participated.

"This interdisciplinary group works in the Dry Valleys of western Antarctica, one of the world's most extreme deserts often considered the closest analogue to the surface of Mars," Sylvain says. This region is snow-free, he notes, and features long expanses of poorly-developed soil interspersed with frozen lakes, ephemeral streams and glaciers.

"Life is dominated by mosses, lichens, algal mats, bacteria, nematodes, and other soil organisms," he says, but "despite the extreme conditions, this region is driven by similar processes found in all ecosystems." And its benefits for researchers, he adds, include a research environment without all the confounding effects from higher plants and animals. 

In his talk, Sylvain will provide an overview of the three field seasons he spent working in Antarctica, the unique challenges of conducting ecological research there, and how what scientists learn in Antarctica can be used to understand ecosystems closer to home.

Please join us at noon on Friday, Feb. 17, for what promises to be a very interesting look at life and science "at the bottom of the world." Bring your lunch; we'll provide dessert!

For questions or more information on NPARL's 2017 Brownbagger Series, contact Beth Redlin at 406-433-9427 or beth.redlin@ars.usda.gov.

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