The life of a UWM researcher… in Antarctica

The life of a UWM researcher… in Antarctica


The places that I go to are primarily in the
Southern hemisphere. Im leaving for Antarctica in a week or two and it will be my 16th trip
to Antarctica. I look at sedimentary rocks. They will give
you a history of what happened at any one spot on the Earths surface through time. The period that Im most interested in is the
Permian Period. There were lots of large ice sheets that were on the Southern continents
known as Gondwanaland, and then they disappeared very suddenly. So, it serves as an ancient
deep time analog for the possible climate change that may be happening to Earth in the
future. Antarctica, once youve been there, you either
love it or hate it. If you love it, youll spend the rest of your life trying to get
back there. Its magnificent. Its awe-inspiring. Its an alien landscape. Its absolutely quiet;
there are no sounds once you get away from the base. During the summer, its daylight
24 hours a day. The air is crystal clear; there are no smells except the smells you
create, and the smells you create sometimes you can smell them five miles away. I do take students there. I have taken both
undergrads and graduate students and a post-doc. We live in tents. Were out on the rocks. Were
usually in the high mountains or on nunataks close to the Polar Plateau so weve got to
endure all the elements. We do all of our cooking. We melt our own water. We dont have
heat – the heat is the sun. Even if you compare Wisconsin winter to Antarctica, it just isnt
comparable. The most fun is solving the scientific questions
– theyre like mysteries. You have to put the clues together to figure out what happened
and the history for a particular place. That occurs while youre in Antarctica, but it also
occurs when youre back at UWM in the lab. Id like to continue going, and Id like to
continue working as a professor until Im 70. Id like to get there at least 20 times, maybe
25 times.

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