Two Basque scientists go on the hunt for Antarctic superplants

On March 7, the sun shone over Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands Antarctica.

Two Basque scientists go on the hunt for Antarctic superplants

On March 7, the sun shone over Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands Antarctica. Jose Ignacio Garcia Plazaola, and Irati Arzac hadn't seen each other in three weeks since their arrival at Juan Carlos I base on February 13. They arrived on the oceanographic vessel Hesperides on February 13. They took the opportunity to explore the botanical station and climb Mount Reina Sofia (275m high) before laying down in the sun. The Bilbao researcher and professor of Plant Physiology from the University of the Basque Country recalled that it was "very good". According to meteorologists, it was unusual weather. It was a marvel," says Zaragoza's biologist, who is completing her doctorate.

ATLANTIC OCEAN

PACIFIC OCEAN

ANTARCTICA

South Shetland Islands

Isla

Livingston

Juan Carlos I Antarctic Base

ATLANTIC OCEAN

PACIFIC OCEAN

ANTARCTICA

South Shetland Islands

Isla

Livingston

Juan Carlos I Antarctic Base

ATLANTIC OCEAN

Islas Shetland

From the south

PACIFIC OCEAN

ANTARCTICA

Isla

Livingston

Juan Carlos I Antarctic Base

ATLANTIC OCEAN

PACIFIC OCEAN

Islas Shetland

From the south

ANTARCTICA

Isla

Livingston

Juan Carlos I Antarctic Base

They are part of the XXXV Spanish Antarctic Campaign. It includes 26 research projects on geomorphology and seismology, glacier dynamics, volcanology, seismology and geodesy. We have come here to study the Olympic champions in plants, which can tolerate the most severe environmental factors that terrestrial plant organisms face: low temperatures, ultraviolet radiation, desiccation, and low temperature. These environmental factors are called stresses and are most prevalent in the Arctic, Antarctica, and high mountains. Garcia Plazaola explains that we want to find out which species are found here, and their physiological strategies to counter these stresses.

Part of the flora available

Antarctica, analyzed by researchers

'Colobanthus quitensis'

(antarctic carnation)

Antarctica has only two flowering plants

'Deschampsia antarctica'

(antarctic grass)

There are many lichens and other mosses.

'Usnea aurantiaco-atra'

(lichen)

Researchers analyze part of Antarctica's flora

'Colobanthus quitensis'

(antarctic carnation)

Antarctica has only two flowering plants

'Deschampsia antarctica'

(antarctic grass)

There are many lichens and other mosses.

'Usnea aurantiaco-atra'

(lichen)

Researchers analyze part of Antarctica's flora

There are many lichens and other mosses.

Antarctica has only two flowering plants

'Deschampsia antarctica'

(antarctic grass)

'Colobanthus quitensis'

(antarctic carnation)

'Usnea aurantiaco-atra'

(lichen)

Researchers analyze part of Antarctica's flora

There are many lichens and other mosses.

Antarctica has only two flowering plants

'Deschampsia antarctica'

(antarctic grass)

'Colobanthus quitensis'

(antarctic carnation)

'Usnea aurantiaco-atra'

(lichen)

EREMITA is the name of the project and it involves researchers from La Rioja University, La Laguna University, La Laguna, La Laguna, and the Basque Country. Six of them are located on Livingston Island, approximately 10,800 km from the Canarian home. The rest are between 12,600 to 12,800 kilometers away. They had to pass a quarantine in Punta arenas (Chile) before they arrived. This was done to stop the coronavirus reaching Antarctica, which is a natural sanctuary. They flew from Punta arenas to the Teniente Rodolfo Marsh Martin airdrome on King George Island, where they were already in the South Shetlands. Then, they boarded the Hesperides and began their journey, which ended with disembarkation in Zodiacs at dawn. .

The journey to the base

They flew from Punta Arenas (Chile), to King George Island (Chile), and then embarked on the oceanographic vessel Hesperides.

Being a member

The Navy was built in 1990

They landed at the base in an astrological plane at dawn the next morning.

All passengers aboard the Zodiacs must wear a suit

They will be able to resist the cold water in case they fall by accident.

The journey to the base

They flew from Punta Arenas (Chile), to King George Island (Chile), and then embarked on the oceanographic vessel Hesperides.

Being a member

The Navy was built in 1990

They landed at the base in an astrological plane at dawn the next morning.

All passengers aboard the Zodiacs must wear a suit

They will be able to resist the cold water in case they fall by accident.

The journey to the base

They flew from Punta Arenas (Chile), to King George Island (Chile), and then embarked on the oceanographic vessel Hesperides.

Being a member

The Navy was built in 1990

They landed at the base in an astrological plane at dawn the next morning.

All passengers aboard the Zodiacs must wear a suit

They will be able to resist the cold water in case they fall by accident.

The journey to the base

They flew from Punta Arenas (Chile), to King George Island (Chile), and then embarked on the oceanographic vessel Hesperides.

Being a member

The Navy was built in 1990

They landed at the base at dawn the next morning in a zodiac.

All passengers aboard the Zodiacs must wear a suit

They will be able to resist the cold water in case they fall by accident.

CSIC station operates only in the austral summer. It now has 45 tenants including scientists and technical staff. We are very good. It's not cold, we have everything. Here, life is easy and relaxed. Europe is a place where we are completely unaware of the stresses and worries. We don't have to worry about other things than our investigations. We only collaborate on cleaning and cooking one out of ten days. Garcia Plazaola says that the work of technicians at the base is "of immense merit". Although the laboratories are well-equipped, they also have their own equipment. "We brought enough equipment from Bilbao so that we can do most of the physiological measurements here. However, there will be some things that will need to be done there."

Spaces in the base

1. Bedrooms

2 bedrooms

3. Infirmary, pantry and gym.

4. Science module

5. Compactor and incinerator

6. Water supply and storage, renewable energies

7. Taller general

8. Power generation

9. Taller

Core space

1.750m2 under the roof

Laboratories: 220 m2

Rest and recreation: 840 m2

Life module

Services

28,63 m

In the rest and leisure areas, there are 16.9m2 per person

Each room can be shared by

two people

Scientific module

PLANT 1

8,78 m

Meeting room

Library

Electronic laboratory

Optoma room

Laboratory

Meteorology

Biological laboratory

General laboratory

Capacity to accommodate 51 people

36 scientists

15 technicians (mechanics and mountain guides, cooks and doctors, boat skippers ...)).

Spaces in the base

1. Bedrooms

2 bedrooms

3. Infirmary, pantry and gym.

4. Science module

5. Compactor and incinerator

6. Water supply and storage, renewable energies

7. Taller general

8. Power generation

9. Taller

3

Core space

1.750m2 under the roof

Laboratories: 220 m2

Rest and recreation: 840 m2

Life module

Services

28,63 m

In the rest and leisure areas, there are 16.9m2 per person

Each room can be shared by

two people

Scientific module

PLANT 1

8,78 m

Meeting room

Library

Electronic laboratory

Optoma room

Laboratory

Meteorology

biological laboratory

General laboratory

Capacity to accommodate 51 people

36 scientists

15 technicians (mechanics and mountain guides, cooks, doctors), boat skippers ...)

Spaces in the base

Modulo B2

Module A

Bedrooms

Infirmary, pantry and gym.

Module B1

Compactor and incinerator

Bedrooms

Scientific module

Taller

Taller

General

Renewable energies, water supply, and warehouse

Electricity generation

Core space

1.750m2 under the roof

Laboratories: 220 m2

Rest and recreation: 840 m2

Life module

Services

28,63 m

In the rest and leisure areas, there are 16.9m2 per person

Each room can be shared by

two people

Scientific module

PLANT 1

biological laboratory

Optoma room

Library

8,78 m

General laboratory

Meeting room

Electronic laboratory

Laboratory

Meteorology

Capacity to accommodate 51 people

36 scientists

15 technicians (mechanics and mountain guides, cooks, doctors), boat skippers ...)

Spaces in the base

Modulo B2

Bedrooms

Module A

Infirmary, pantry and gym.

Module B1

Compactor and incinerator

Bedrooms

Scientific module

Taller

Taller

General

Renewable energies, water supply, and warehouse

Electricity generation

Core space

1.750m2 under the roof

Laboratories: 220 m2

Rest and recreation: 840 m2

Life module

Services

28,63 m

In the rest and leisure areas, there are 16.9m2 per person

Each room can be shared by

two people

Scientific module

PLANT 1

biological laboratory

Optoma room

Library

8,78 m

General laboratory

Meeting room

Electronic laboratory

Laboratory

Meteorology

Capacity to accommodate 51 people

36 scientists

15 technicians (mechanics and mountain guides, cooks and doctors, boat skippers ...)).

The laboratory work is very similar in nature to the one we do at Leioa. Because the environment is so spectacular, the only difference is in the outputs that you can collect. From my bedroom window, you can see the bay from my bedroom. Sometimes, I even see whales when I get up. I take photos every morning. "This is amazing, " acknowledges Arzac. He shares a room on base with one of eight women. The views are not as good for his partner. "Irati is fortunate because her bedroom overlooks the bay. Mine faces the scree.

Jose Ignacio Garcia Plazaola

plant physiologist

Garcia Plazaola, who was in Antarctica for the second time in 2018, enjoys every moment of his stay as if it were his first. Wildlife is what I love the most. We saw a whale from the window while we were measuring in the laboratory the other day. As we speak, I am looking out at the bay filled with floating ice, and a large glacial field. Penguins are also a possibility. They will walk next to you if you go outside. They're very friendly and can be quite entertaining. It's a pleasure to spend hours gazing at them. Bilbao will be a place you'll always remember.

Any window that opens to the outside from the base reveals a beautiful, frozen landscape.

Weather conditions outside can be severe with strong winds reaching 180 km/h (the average speed is 14 km/h).

These researchers do a lot of their work indoors.

There are common areas in the base and a dining area where everyone can meet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

AUX STEP FOR JSON

Livingston Island's day begins with breakfast at eight in morning in the dining room. Sometimes, a meeting takes place to plan the day's activities. After that, the Basque scientists get to work. They can stay in the laboratory if the weather is not good, or they can go outside to collect samples. They work in teams of two or more and carry a 'walkie talkie'. "You must notify the head of base when you leave, arrive at the location and return. We move about the neighborhood. Others go to the glacier and in zodiacs with their companions. Garcia Plazaola says that if it isn't windy, it's fine out." Arzac says, "But be careful as it's quite rocky terrain."

A day at work

The time required and the nature of the project will dictate whether the researchers conduct field work or laboratory work.

8.00

Breakfast

Mount Queen Sofia

(275 m)

Base

They have 4 snowmobiles and one quad. However, they are often walked.

Teams of two or more and notifying base

They collect samples and test the environment in the base.

14.00

Food

The portable meter

The field is dominated by the fluorimeter and photosynthesis.

The lab

19.30

Meet with the weather report for the next day

20.00

Gatherings, dinner and leisure

A day at work

The time required and the nature of the project will dictate whether the researchers conduct field work or laboratory work.

8.00

Breakfast

Mount Queen Sofia

(275 m)

Base

They have 4 snowmobiles and one quad. However, they are often walked.

Teams of two or more and notifying base

Test your samples with the help of a friend.

The base environment

14.00

Food

The portable meter

Basic concepts of fluorimeter and photosynthesis are included.

In the countryside

The lab

19.30

Meet with the weather report for the next day

20.00

Gatherings, dinner and leisure

A day at work

The time required and the nature of the project will dictate whether the researchers conduct field work or laboratory work.

8.00

Breakfast

Mount Queen Sofia

(275 m)

Base

They have 4 snowmobiles and one quad. However, they are often walked.

Teams of two or more and notifying base

Test your samples with the help of a friend.

The base environment

14.00

Food

The portable meter

Basic concepts of fluorimeter and photosynthesis are included.

In the countryside

The lab

19.30

Meet with the weather report for the next day

20.00

Gatherings, dinner and leisure

A day at work

The time required and the nature of the project will dictate whether the researchers conduct field work or laboratory work.

8.00

Breakfast

Mount Queen Sofia

(275 m)

Base

They have 4 snowmobiles and one quad. However, they are often walked.

Teams of two or more and notifying base

Test your samples with the help of a friend.

The base environment

14.00

Food

The portable meter

Basic concepts of fluorimeter and photosynthesis are included.

In the countryside

The lab

19.30

Meet with the weather report for the next day

20.00

Gatherings, dinner and leisure

"This scree is very green. The majority of the island is covered in glaciers. Only a few areas are ice-free, as we are. The biologist says that this climate is tropical compared to Antarctica. Livingston Island's summer temperature ranges from 0°C to 3°C. It is "as if you were climbing Gorbea." It is currently -49o Celsius at the US Amundsen Scott base, which is located at the geographical South Pole. The wind is the worst thing about this place. Arzac admits that you can't stay still. He has always been amazed by the ability of plants grow anywhere. It's amazing that plants can thrive in these conditions. They are amazing plants." They are super plants. I have taken them digitally. You can also find a good library here.

Although the temperature isn't extreme, it is well below the freezing mark on average

Media -1.2o

Mid-February 2.2o

Average July: -5.2o

Researchers have plenty to do in such an environment.

The windows at the base allow you to see the gentoo penguin as well as the chinstrap.

Researchers can observe the bay from their windows.

Some whales have a dorsal fin

Humpback Whale

fin whale

The most distinctive bird

The area is

Nests of escua

In the mountains

You can be aggressive

Breeding season

There are many types of seals

In the base environment

Lobo

Marino

Leopard seal

Although the temperature isn't extreme, it is well below zero on average

Media -1.2o

Mid-February 2.2o

Average July: -5.2o

Researchers have plenty to do in such an environment.

The windows at the base allow you to see the gentoo penguin as well as the chinstrap.

Researchers can observe the bay from their windows.

Some whales have a dorsal fin

Humpback Whale

fin whale

The most distinctive bird

The area is

Nests of escua

In the mountains

You can be aggressive

Breeding season

There are many types of seals that can be found in the base's environment.

Lobo

Marino

Leopard seal

Although the temperature isn't extreme, it is well below zero on average

Media -1.2o

Mid-February 2.2o

Average July: -5.2o

Researchers have plenty to do in such an environment.

The windows at the base allow you to see the gentoo penguin as well as the chinstrap.

Researchers can observe the bay from their windows.

Some whales have a dorsal fin

Humpback Whale

fin whale

The most distinctive bird

The area is

Nests of escua

In the mountains

You can be aggressive

Breeding season

There are many types of seals that can be found in the base's environment.

Lobo

Marino

Leopard seal

Although the temperature isn't extreme, it is well below zero on average

Media -1.2o

Mid-February 2.2o

Average July: -5.2o

Researchers have plenty to do in such an environment.

The windows at the base allow you to see the gentoo penguin as well as the chinstrap.

Researchers can observe the bay from their windows.

Some whales have a dorsal fin

Humpback Whale

fin whale

The most distinctive bird

The area is

Nests of escua

In the mountains

You can be aggressive

Breeding season

There are many types of seals that can be found in the base's environment.

Lobo

Marino

Leopard seal

Basque scientists work with their colleagues to study plants that can be grown within an hour of the base. They collect measurements and samples. The essential minimum. We can't continue to destroy populations. "We measure their photosynthetic activity, and we remove individuals from them, not whole people, to study them later," says the UPV/EHU professor. They are tested in the laboratory to determine how they can withstand low temperatures, ultraviolet radiation, and lack of water. These data are added to a database that includes information about high-mountain and Arctic plants.

Irati Arzac

Biologist

We ask ourselves questions like whether these plants are adapted to living in these environments or are they just the ones who survive in them. However, the best ones will thrive in better environments. Garcia Plazaola explains that if they are adaptable, what techniques do they use, and if there are any ways to make them available to others in other environments. Livingston Island's sun rises at 6 am and sets at 8 pm, but that can change very quickly. There are now ten hours of darkness but there was none when we arrived. How can one adapt to sudden changes like these? The key to adapting to sudden changes is to keep your blinds closed. After lunch, the work in the laboratory or on the field is stopped at 2 o'clock. Then, it is resumed at half past seven. The meteorologists then give us the forecast for the day, and we plan the activities.

After dinner, they watch a movie or listen in on a talk given by a colleague. Arzac says that conferences and gatherings are great because they bring together people from different backgrounds. Communication with family members is also possible, almost continuously, through 'wasaps' or the base telephone. Video calls are rare because they must be made by appointment only after signing up for a list. This is to ensure that the station's bandwidth does not get consumed. Also, you cannot view Netflix or other streaming TV services. The hardest part is that you cannot watch Netflix or any other streaming TV service. We don't know when we'll be back. Garcia Plazaola says it will depend on weather conditions, so the time of return may vary. It is a blessing to have been able come here to explore. It's a unique experience," says Arzac.

Source of graphics and photographs Marine Technology Unit, BAE Juan Carlos I, Monica Sanz and Rafael Hernandez (UTM-CSIC/UPM/IETcc-CSIC).

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