Zooplankton incubation experiments and the rescue of an anchor installed in the South Bay are part of the scientific activities that will take place on the white continent between November 2022 and March 2023.

A total of 25 scientists from the Center for Dynamic Research in High Latitude Marine Ecosystems (IDEAL) of the Austral University of Chile (UACh) will participate in the Antarctic Scientific Expedition (59) developed by the Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACH). The researchers will work in the Antarctic Peninsula, specifically at the Professor Julio Escudero and Yelcho bases, between November 2022 and March 2023.

The first team of experts that left Punta Arenas to the white continent was led by oceanographer Dr. Juan Höfer, academic at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (PUCV) and researcher at the IDEAL Center, who will work in Fildes Bay for two years in a row to record the atmospheric conditions of the area in spring.

The team also formed by Dra. Mireia Mestre, Dr. Kechen Zhu and research assistant Camila Marín will carry out zooplankton incubations, in addition to installing oceanographic equipment at a depth of 30 meters in Fildes Bay with the aim of collecting variables throughout the year (salinity, temperature, oxygen, CO2).

“Weather in Antarctica can change considerably in each season and that is what we expect in this campaign. Our objective is to be able to register an interannual variability of the conditions present in the bay for a period of four years,” commented Dr. Höfer, who will work in the field with his team for two months.

The dean of the Faculty of Sciences of the UACh, Dra. Leyla Cárdenas, will travel during the month of February together with a group of researchers to continue for the second consecutive year with the study on the diversity of species that arrive in the Antarctic peninsula, to through environmental DNA analysis.

“Using this technique, we will take samples of sediments and of the water column to analyze the diversity of species that are currently in the environment. We hope that this study works as a constant monitoring tool to investigate organisms that are arriving in Antarctica,” mentioned Dr. Cárdenas. In addition, for the first time and in collaboration with INACH and companies associated with maritime transport, the hull of several vessels will be checked for the detection of biofouling, microorganisms that adhere to these structures and that could pose a threat to the native ecosystems of the white continent.

For its part, the team led by the director of the IDEAL Center, Dr. Humberto González, will continue the time series measurements of the anchors installed at the Yelcho and Escudero bases. The instruments will monitor the oceanographic parameters and particulate material flows for the estimation of coastal zones as sink areas or sources of carbon from and to the atmosphere.

Dr. González highlighted the resumption of research in the Antarctic territory after the forced pause caused by the pandemic during the last two years. “We are resuming our activities with great force, concentrating on the urgency of studying Antarctica in conditions of exacerbated climate change and that is modifying the characteristics of the ecosystems and biodiversity of the place,” he concluded