Lake Bonney Research

Looking back through the photographs I took at Lake Bonney, I see there are a few rather interesting shots, including the hole in the ice (accessed by Bess Ward and her team via the floor of the weather shelter tent) and also the teflon-coated tube that goes down into the water, feeding water samples into a HEPA-filtered hood, to keep the work area clean. The teflon tube (acid-cleaned before each use) helps them sample from a precise layer of water; the waters of Lake Bonney are very stratified, and do not mix easily, and so they want to draw samples from very specific levels. You can also see the special metal-coated plastic bags (like juice-drink bags) that keep their samples pristine, and do not allow gas to penetrate or escape — and Bess’s orange box with dove-cote compartments inside, to keep the water samples safely stored as they are transported from field to lab.

I also spent an afternoon in their lab this week, observing as samples were processed and their bacterial contents counted and analyzed, digitally. This is where their “hands-on” observable research takes a very abstract turn, due to the computerized methods need to manipulate and analyze bacteria.

Reading the Rake in Antarctica
Ben, processing samples in Bess Ward’s lab (back in McMurdo)

If all goes well (fingers-crossed): I will be able to return to the field with Bess and Mark tomorrow! This time, we’ll be working on the East Lobe of Lake Bonney, which behaves very differently, in terms of bacterial denitrification processes. I hope this trip happens, as it will be my last opportunity to observe scientific field work in Antarctica. Impossible as it seems, my time in Antarctica is nearing an end. At this point, I am scheduled to leave the Ice on Sunday. (If I miss that flight for some reason, they tell me the next one doesn’t go out to New Zealand until December 22.)

View Slideshow of Research on Lake Bonney:

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