2023-2024 Science Planning Summary
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2023-2024 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Collaborative Research: Exploring the functional role of plants during terrestrial succession

Robert Island. Photo by Mike Lucibella. Image courtesy of NSF/USAP Photo Library.
B-289-E Research Location(s): King George Island


Event Number:
NSF / OPP Award 1932844

Program Director:
Dr. Rebecca Gast

ASC POC/Implementer:
Kenneth Vicknair / Jamee Johnson

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. Sarah Margaretha Eppley
Portland State University
Department of Biology


Supporting Stations: Special Project
Research Locations: King George Island


This collaborative research project builds on a 2019 pilot study to evaluate the effects of climate change on terrestrial carbon balance in tractable deglaciated sere in an area of the Antarctic Peninsula that provides a strong gradient in primary productivity. The team will be evaluating the effects of warming on soil carbon loss and clarifying the major microbial and plant controls on the process. Team members will use a controlled study of environmental chambers arrayed along a productivity gradient to measure carbon flux change with temperature. The goal is to link shifts in net ecosystem carbon balance to warming effects on individual soil microbes and plant types. The study will further assess the photosynthetic uptake of carbon by the vegetation and its sensitivity to warming. Results will advance research on climate change, plant and soil microbial ecology, and ecosystem modeling.

Field Season Overview

Up to four total participants will travel to King George Island (KGI) as part of a collaborative project supported by the Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACH). Participants will travel to KGI via Chilean vessel or aircraft. Travel between Antarctic locations will occur via the Chilean Navy vessel or other support vessel. The field team will be based at the Chilean research base, Base Profesor Julio Escudero on KGI, and will camp at Robert Island, if possible. Field activities will include fine-scale surveys at previously sampled locations (KGI, Robert Island), latitudinal gradient surveys (60°S-64°S) at additional proposed sites (Moraine Valley, Rakusa Point, Hurd Peninsula, Cieva Point, and Forbes Point), and manipulative transplant experiments (KGI and Robert Island). Latitudinal gradient survey sites may change based on the Chilean logistics plan. Participants will install weather stations at two field sites on KGI and Robert Island. USAP support includes travel to and from Punta Arenas, laboratory supplies, Extreme Cold Weather (ECW) gear, medical Physical Qualification (PQ), cargo, and northbound sample shipping. Southbound cargo may be shipped directly to Punta Arenas or be carried by hand. INACH will provide logistical field support including all equipment and transportation between Punta Arenas and KGI.

Deploying Team Members

  • Rebecca Ball (Co-PI)
  • Hannah Prather
  • Todd Rosenstiel (Co-PI)