Thursday, December 24, 2015

Changing of the Guards & Homeward Bound

Emma, Drew and I pulled in camp from Black Island last Monday in time to meet Professor Marchant and our fellow Antarctic Ambassador Dan upon their arrival in McMurdo.

We had a successful time at Black Island, collecting 20 erratic rock samples which will undergo cosmogenic nuclide dating once they are shipped back to Boston in April. Other than the 3 day snow storm which kept us bundled in our tents, and the occasional fog which created very low visibility, we experienced fairly good weather as the heat of the summer season rolled in.
Emma and I sunbathing for a few minutes in the "hot" weather.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Hydrated salts

A few days ago while we dug soil pits in the moraine near camp, we discovered ice buried beneath the surface.  This find is exciting as the ice could be remnant glacial ice from the last glacial period.  If it's glacier ice, then we definitely know that the ice sheet extended to that point and that the local climate on Black island has remained cold enough for ice to survive for over 10,000 years. Once we have the sample back in the lab, we can analyze the oxygen isotopes of the ice to determine the origin of the ice; it could be glacial (ice sheet), marine (the ocean), or meteoric (snowfall). 
Natalie and I begin to dig a pit.

Monday, December 14, 2015

G-054 Cookbook: Tasty Meals on a Coleman Stove

A complete how-to guide on making nutritious, vegetarian meals for three hungry campers!

2 packets instant oatmeal (1 flavored, 1 regular)
Dried Fruit
Grape Nuts

Combine ingredients in a bowl, add hot water, stir, and enjoy!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Black Island.

Well, we’re all settled in our next (and my last) field camp. Yesterday was camp put in. It was a really, really long day. We spent several hours pitching the tents, and setting things in place. The hardest part of pitching the tents is finding enough large, heavy, rocks to make rock anchors for the tent chords, and place on the valence. It was a grueling process, but the efforts were worth it. We now have a secure and cozy little home nestled onto the desolate nothingness that is Black Island.
Today, being the first day in camp, was a recon day. We spent most of the day hiking the entire length of the moraine we want to study. We trudged along for a little over 8 hours and 6 miles, eyeing spots for sampling and pit digging. We were impeded in several spots by large snow drifts flowing down the ridge sides. We would then have to hike all the way down and around them. That wasn’t so bad. It was much worse hiking back up to the top of the moraine. We definitely earned our chili dinner today. 
Drew and Nat set up camp.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Discovering Mount Discovery: A Photo Retrospective

Today is our last day at our Mount Discovery camp. Tomorrow we will move east to Black Island. We will camp close to Mount Aurora, the highest peak on the island. We have spent our days here collecting lots of samples of granite, dolerite rocks and algae, digging pits, and mapping the moraine. Here are some highlights from our time at Discovery!

Crazy clouds over Mt Discovery

All about that base (station)... more Trimble!

Hey readers! Today's blog is brought to you by both of our Antarctic reporters Emma AND Natalie! 
Natalie and Em rocking down our Trimble GPS base station.
Yesterday we surveyed the moraine. It was a long grueling day, but I think all of this heavy lifting is a good thing in the long run. Surveying the moraine includes using a GPS to map it's latitude and longitude coordinates, as well as elevation. We took both one long continuous (or mostly continuous) run of the moraine in order to better place it on our maps. We also took point measurements where each cosmogenic nuclide sample was, so we know exactly where all of our data comes from, and how old each part of the moraine is. This, as you can imagine, involve A LOT of hiking. (In total it was about 10 miles.) Plus to be more efficient, while Drew used the GPS, we picked up and carried the cosmo samples all the way back to camp. So, we carried rocks. On our backs. For miles. On rocky terrain... It was a fun day! Very tiring, but very productive as well. Now it's time for a little lesson on GPS. The more we learn about it, the more fascinating it becomes, so we thought we'd share!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Livin da Vida Antarctica

I sit here, fingers chilly, trying to think of an accurate way to describe camp life in Antarctica. I guess I’ll just run through an average day. Today we woke up at a ripe 6:45, stumbled into the cook tent around 7:30 (it’s tough to get out of the sleeping bag) and had a yummy breakfast of oatmeal, grape nuts, and berries. After a cup of coffee (or two for Drew) we prepared ourselves for the long day ahead. Backpacks on, we finally started trudging our way along the moraines of Mt. Discovery around 9:30. With the sun hitting the peaks of the ridges, we hike up, and up, and up, until we’re finally at a good starting place for sampling. Drew arrives first, as always, Natalie and I bringing up the rear. We’ll get better at this hiking thing eventually. Although the days have been rough, in this climate it’s good to be busy. I think I’ve gotten used to the cold, or at least to always seeing my breath - but sometimes the wind can still be brutal, especially on top of ridges.

Drew and Natalie enjoying their morning coffee.

In The Field!

After a rushed morning in McMurdo last Thursday, we hurried to the Helo Pad and loaded our things onto an A-Star helicopter. After some safety instructions from our Kiwi pilot Shaun, we took off for Mount Discovery. 
Drew showing our pilot Shaun where we planned to camp on a map

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Clothes! And a Corollary on Moisture-Wicking Fabrics

   This week I bought most of the base-layer clothing I will be wearing in Antarctica! I leave in less than a month, and am getting finishing my preparation. My preparation has included not only the purchase of these supplies, but also research into the different types of fabrics needed to keep warm in a frozen desert. Since this research turned out to be surprisingly interesting, I decided to share my findings…

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I pick things up and put them down.

The past two days have been really busy, really long, and really fun! Yesterday we did the food pull, which means we have to pack all of our food for the next month into rock boxes. We separated them by breakfast, dinner, and snack, that way we only have to have 3 boxes in the tent at a time. We packed a lot of oatmeal and beans. We also packed A LOT of chocolate. It is one of life's necessities after all! It was strangely comforting to organize all of the boxes - we could really see our progress, and they looked so nice in their little rows. Then came the hard part, we had to carry them - 40 lbs each (it's harder than it sounds) - down the stairs and back to the cage. We emptied everything out of the cage... again... to make a final spreadsheet of all of our cargo and it's total weight.

In total we had 9 food boxes, 2 for breakfast, 3 for snacks, 3 for dinner, and one for spices and drinks.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Discovery Hut and More Preparation!

After lots of practice setting up and using our new equipment, we tested our skills yesterday morning when we were dropped at the top of a hill outside of town and asked to set up camp. With our new knowledge of the trucker's hitch and our not so warm gloves, we successfully used two stoves, an old HF radio, and our satellite phone.

Drew and I take a spin on the snowmobile!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Updates from Boston

Flight path to Antarctica. Image Credit: USAP

As of last Thursday, I am the only BU Antarctic Ambassador left in the hemisphere! Antarctic Ambassadors Natalie Robinson and Emelia Chamberlain left with graduate student and BURECS/BUARG team member Andrew Christ, and are in Antarctica now! As my general lack of blogs over the past month will attest, though, I have been very busy back here in Boston. Between midterms, homework, research, and extracurriculars, it has been difficult time to fully prepare for such an extraordinary voyage. However, because my time of departure is fast-approaching, my physical and mental preparation have necessarily begun.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Living in McMurdo

The sign we made for our office down here - it's the counterpart to " 'Lil Antarctica " back at BU.
Today is our third day in McMurdo, but we've been so busy it already feels like a week! Yesterday we spent most of the morning in briefings, and then most of the afternoon at the BFC (Berg Field Center or as it's lovingly called "Building Full of Chicks"). While there, we pulled all of the equipment out of our cage or storage space and sorted through it. There was a lot of picking things up... and putting them down. But it was also super useful because it gave me and Natalie a better idea of just exactly how we would be living out in the field.

Thursday, November 5, 2015


After three days of delays and some extra time to explore New Zealand, we finally made it to McMurdo Station! At 6:30 this morning we reported to the CDC, put on our ECW gear, and headed to the terminal. A few hours later, after some presentations and security screenings, we climbed on to the U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo jet with our packed lunches for the second time, hoping we wouldn't have to turn around again. There were also twice the amount of passengers than the first try (about 90 in total), as another group of people had come in since our arrival last Saturday. Seats lined the two side walls of the plane and some extra seating was put in towards the front. All the other space was was packed high with luggage, food needed in McMurdo, and other equipment and supplies. I was able to go to the upper level at the front of the plane where the pilots and other crew members stayed.
The ceiling inside of the plane

View of the passengers from the pilot's back window

Monday, November 2, 2015

Delayed again!

This morning I woke up to my alarm, eyes flying open... today's the day! We had to report at the Antarctic Centre at 6:30 AM to check our bags, get debriefed, and board our ice flight. Nat, Drew and I met up at 6:10 in the lobby of our hotel to head over (thankfully we're right next door!). We got in and had to hurry up and get all of our gear ready.
The International Antarctic Centre in Christchurch NZ... this is the view from the balcony of my hotel room!

Christchurch, New Zealand!

After a late arrival in Christchurch, New Zealand on Saturday night, we checked into our hotel and took our jetlagged bodies to bed. Sunday morning we woke up, and after a quick breakfast at the hotel, we headed down the street to the United States Antarctic Program (USAP) building where we were given flu shots, briefed on our upcoming trip, and outfitted with our extreme cold weather gear. After some quick training, we had the rest of the day to explore Christchurch!

Emma and Drew walk through Christchurch

Friday, October 30, 2015

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Packed camera bag complete with luggage tag. 
My bag is packed. The sturdy black duffle, delicately perched on top of my dresser, stares me down. This is it, it's really time. As we near departure, everything seems much more real. The cameras and batteries are all laid out in the lab, ready to be placed into our carry ons. I've said my goodbyes to my family, and my roomies keep giving me random hugs. I've cut out the pictures for and written addresses into my journal. It's really only two days away!!!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Nisha Kishore - Presenting Chapter

Presenting Chapter

Laptop? Check. ID? Check. Nervous? Check. Definitely check. I looked into the mirror and straightened my tie for the last time before heading downstairs. It was time to give my BU RECS presentation. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Alexandra Theodosopoulos - Hope and Climate Change

Hope and Climate Change

by Alexandra Theodosopoulos

Hope. It is what keeps us curious, emotional human beings going through our lives, and it gives meaning to our actions. It is a powerful concept, which has been at the center of many of the world’s most pivotal moments—the catalyst for powerful change throughout history. In the modern-day world, there seems to be an ever-increasing number of overwhelming issues looming around every corner. One such issue is climate change and the threat of a climate disaster not too far down the road. Most of the population has had some exposure to the information that the planet’s climate is experiencing rapid and drastic changes, and that all the scientific research points to a man-made cause. Whether people choose to believe this, or better yet, choose to act on it, is the question which is key to preventing the destruction of the home we all depend on to survive. In my personal experience, I have met people who are aware of global warming and the human threat to the planet, and believe the science is accurate. However, many of these people use plastic water bottles recklessly, forgetting to even do the simple act of recycling, print a myriad of unnecessary pages, and drive their cars multiple times every day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Jack Of All Trades

I never thought my ice chipping skills would come in handy at a science laboratory.

For most of my high school career I worked part time at my aunt's home made ice cream shop.  Every thursday the 1st waitress had to scrape the front display ice box, as ice would build up on the edges. Today Drew and I spent the morning chipping away ice from the freezer we keep our frozen Antarctica samples in. Apparently all freezers are just as guilty of doing their job more than we would like them to.

T-Minus 9 Days

Time is moving quickly, and it hasn’t really hit me just how soon I’m leaving for Antarctica. I have I feeling none of this will seem real until I actually step foot on the ice. These past two months have been a whirlwind of learning, reading, interviewing, algae-picking, shopping for the warmest, wooliest socks, and perfecting my 30-second elevator pitch on my research.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

What Is Science?

The other day I was asked "What Is Science?". Well, that's a toughy - very philosophical for my right-brained self... but I sat down and thought it out. Here are my thoughts, pre-Antarctica.

Science is an adventure. It’s a quest for knowledge that never ends. It takes time and effort, but it’s really quite simple once you get to the heart of it. People like to learn new things. This is especially true when it comes to the world around us. So they come up with stories of what they think will happen, and then create controlled experiments to see if they’re right. It is a process… and a messy one at that. Filled with lots of mistakes, lots of work - and if you really love what you’re doing, lots of fun as well! Science is opportunity. It’s an opportunity to show the world that there’s more out there than meets the eye. It’s an opportunity to shine a light on the very small,
SEM image of Biotite, a mineral found in ash.
(the very small)
and pull into perspective the very large. It’s an opportunity to discover something that no one else thought of, or find something unexpected. Science is not only for the stodgy, bearded, academic. Science is organic, and holds a place in everyone’s hearts. While there are many fancy words, impressive citations, complicated formulas etc. Everything begins with a question. And that question sparks new questions. From a child asking where rain comes from, to NASA wondering if there’s water on mars. Everything stems from that integral human trait - curiosity.

I mean, I know that’s why I agreed to a six week journey to Antarctica - the coldest and most desolate on Earth. It's curiosity, adventure, the idea of discovering something new! The opportunity to stand on ground that no one has ever stood on before! One doesn't just suffer through weeks of no showers and no internet for kicks. Besides, many people have been through much worse for the sake of discovery. Science is messy. It's sloughing through marshes, playing with lightening, exploring in the jungle... and camping in the cold and wind of
BUARG camp site juxtaposed to the TAM
(the very large)
Antarctica. In order to learn how nature works, you need to go up and poke it with a stick.
I'm so excited to have this opportunity to actually get in there, roll up my sleeves (or layer them on) and figure it out for myself!

Yet, science is an enterprise that affects so many more people than just the solitary scientist. It builds upon years and years of hard work by others in our fields. When I was a kid, I used to wonder why nature does what it does. But this is an age old question that humans have been tackling for centuries. It began with the very first people and simple experiments like "is this berry safe to eat", or "can I touch fire". As time went on people soon realized that science is methodical, a process. It involves experimentation, and data collection. Plus the invention of written language probably didn't hurt. Thus over centuries of hard work, we have transformed "science" into the large body of knowledge that we have and enjoy today. Yet even now, with the scientific method, peer review, modeling, and new technology... it still all begins with a simple question. An observation. A spark. An adventure!

-Emelia Chamberlain

Monday, October 12, 2015

Mars Updates and Antarctica

   Mars Updates and Antarctica

   Over the past few weeks, NASA has released several important updates about the atmospheric conditions of Mars. These developments and their relation to the BU Antarctic Research Group's (BUARG) work in Antarctica have me very excited. 

Nisha Kishore - Earth-centered Ethics

Earth-centered Ethics

Have you considered the focus of our ethics system? I did, or at least I thought so, during my ethics course junior year of high school. I was surprised by today’s seminar because it challenged my beliefs and allowed me to view the Earth from a fresh perspective.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions

Hi everyone! 
I thought I would share the answers to some of the questions people commonly ask me. If I forgot anything please leave a comment with your questions and I will do my best to answer them!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

BURECS Beginnings by Nisha Kishore

BURECS Beginnings

8:03 pm, my watch read. I’m late! I thought. I started running down Commonwealth Ave to get to ultimate frisbee practice. As I started jogging, I felt a few drops of rain fall down my face. I looked up to the sky and couldn’t help but let my mind wander to Earth’s climate change, and to what I’ve been learning in with BU RECS.

I’ve had a great time in class these past two weeks. Drew Christ, our graduate fellow, gave the first two presentations. Last week, he focused on the Earth’s current climate system. He emphasized that the radiation from the sun is not received evenly throughout the Earth, resulting in a large solar radiation imbalance. Several factors contribute to this imbalance, including varying levels of albedo and changes in the Earth’s tilt due to its rotation. This week, Drew concentrated on climate models. He introduced climate proxies, which are indicators of previous climatic conditions. He taught us about collecting data by studying tree rings, caves, and radiometric dating. The lesson concluded with learning about different types of climate models and their uses.

Overall, I’m excited about how much I’ve learned about Earth’s climate in such a short time. I’m looking forward to next week: the first presentation by my peers! 
--Nisha Kishore

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Heigh Ho It's Off To Work We Go!

Wow. Less than a month until departure!
Natalie Robinson working hard picking some algae.

These past few weeks have been so crazy... and they've gone by so fast! First we welcomed the new freshman class of BURECS (woooo!).  Then they put up a program poster on Warren Towers (featuring my lovely co-ambassadors and me). Then the three of us were interviewed on BU radio! It's great to see the program getting such recognition and promotion. Communication is of course the C in BURECS so its exciting to see us really reaching out and sharing our research with the community.

As for me, I just finished my final for the a marine estuaries class  in  the Boston University Marine Program. It was a lot of fun, and a lot of work. Although it was a great experience, I'm glad its over-  now I have time to really focus on preparing for the expedition - and get some lab time in!

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Few Words from One of the Newest BURECSers, Nisha Kishore

A Few Words from One of the Newest BURECSers, Nisha Kishore

“√Čtudiants au revoir!” I heard my French teacher say as I exited the classroom. With my head held high and an overwhelming smile on my face, I made my way downstairs to the beginning of an indescribable adventure: my orientation for BURECS.

As I entered the room, I couldn’t help but admire the beauty of the moment. 19 freshmen, from different colleges, aspirations, and backgrounds, all coming together for the purpose of research. I took my seat and took a mental image of the faces in the room, knowing that they would momentarily become my colleagues.

Dave began the orientation by introducing the course syllabus and content. We will be studying the Earth’s climate change this semester, and two different students will present the chapter every week. I’m looking forward to learning from my peers and being able to create my own presentation. After the introduction, Dave gave us an innovation-style questionnaire to help us understand our personal style of coming up with ideas. I was certain that I would be considered a visionary, so I was surprised to find out that I’m a philosopher. I learned that I’m stimulated by ideas and I tend to view a situation from a more thoughtful perspective.

I’m looking forward to being a part of this amazing group of students and faculty. I am excited to see what we can accomplish together and am confident that this semester will be unforgettable! 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fame and Excitement!

Hi everyone!

This poster went up on the side of Warren Towers yesterday! If being famous means your friends send you pictures of a poster of yourself in a parka on the side of a college dorm, then I am clearly now a celebrity. Here I am awkwardly posing next to the picture Emma, Dan, and I took earlier this semester, sporting extreme cold weather (ECW) gear, while it was 80 degrees in Boston. 

Often times, when I tell people about going to Antarctica they tell me I’m crazy or brave or that they would never do what I’m going to do. I feel neither crazy nor brave. I just feel incredibly lucky. I see it as taking advantage of a tremendous, life-changing opportunity.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Communication is Key

   Today, the faces of BURECS’s Antarctic Ambassadors were posted on the side of Boston University’s Warren Towers! Besides making a cool profile picture and helping Natalie, Emma, and I score our 15 minutes of fame, this publicity represents one of the most important features of the BURECS program: communication.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Blood, Sweat, and Wisdom Teeth? - Emelia Chamberlain

Blood, Sweat, and Wisdom Teeth?

Something they don’t tell you before you apply travel to Antarctica, is that you have to be really really really healthy. Now it makes sense, medical treatment is very far away at the end of the earth. However that still did not prepare me for the rigorous medical and dental vetting process I endured this summer.

First, you simply fill out some travel forms - not too bad, but a lot of paperwork. Then you download the medical forms. The normal process is to get the physical from your normal doctor, get some x-rays from your normal dentist, then send it all in – easy peasy. However, this process becomes infinitely more difficult when you are a college student living on your own in a brand new city, with no known doctors or dentists and with a student health services that doesn’t accept your insurance. It then becomes even more difficult when you find out you need nine cavities filled and oral surgery within 2 months.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Emelia Chamberlain - Your Antarctic Ambassador

Meet Emelia Chamberlain, Your Antarctic Ambassador

There are few moments in a person’s life that can be described as once in a lifetime. In fact, by definition that seems to be the case. There are many other ambiguous moments, often fleeting, that occur infinitely until finally that person’s chances are up. Now, these moments are punctuated by memories, smiles, laughs, tears… and most importantly those special once in a lifetime moments that everyone talks so much about.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Dan Rybarczyk - Your Antarctic Ambassador

Meet Dan Rybarczyk, Your Antarctic Ambassador

The Antarctic Dry Valleys are among the most remote and lifeless areas on earth. It is therefore necessary to take significant precautions to ensure the health and safety of researchers in the field there. Essentially, this is a formal way of saying that if you want to go to Antarctica, you will first have to fill out a large stack of paperwork detailing the past and present condition of every aspect of your health, inside and out. This stage of preparation is tedious— multiple visits to both doctors and dentists are required. Some of the mandatory examinations include X-rays, blood tests, shots, and an EKG. The results of all of these tests must then be collected, shipped to a medical center in Texas, and processed. Any insufficiencies warrant a notification requesting more paperwork, signatures, and a repetition of the mailing and processing procedure. Although the thoroughness (as well as the expense) of all of this testing can seem rather excessive, it is actually an exciting reminder of Antarctica’s unearthly austerity. The entire continent has remained largely lifeless for millions of years, yet now we have the opportunity to study its harsh, unyielding climate firsthand.   So, complain as I may about the red tape involved with the expedition, when I actually stop to think about why it’s necessary, I can’t help becoming both very excited and very thankful that I actually have an opportunity to experience the joys and pains of living in an otherworldly frozen desert at the bottom of the world.
--Dan Rybarczyk 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Natalie Robinson - Your Antarctic Ambassador

Meet Natalie Robinson, Your Antarctic Ambassador

My name is Natalie Robinson and I am one of the students who will be traveling and working in Antarctica this semester! I am beyond excited for this adventure and can’t wait to share my journey with you along the way. I first heard about the BURECS program at Orientation, the July before my freshman year at Boston University. I was initially enticed by the unearthly and beautiful photos displayed before me, but had no idea the scientific value behind the landscape, and the extent to which I would eventually become involved in this project. 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Antarctic Dry Valleys as a Mars Analog -- Dan Rybarczyk

   Antarctica is sometimes described as otherworldly. As it turns out, this is actually quite close to the truth. Geologists’ knowledge of the origin and nature of certain features in the Mars-like Antarctic Dry Valleys (ADV) can be applied to regions of the Martian surface to improve our understanding of the Red Planet’s geology, climate, orbital history, and potential for exploration.
Shaded image of Olympus Mons and the Tharsis Montes volcanoes. Image Credit: NASA

Thursday, May 21, 2015

First Year Highlights... Earth Day 2015!

A Great First Year!

This year, we were inspired by our students.  Exceedingly passionate, intelligent, and driven, they met all challenges, and showed us there is certainly much to look forward to in the coming years.  We hope you will join us as we watch the BURECS program grow.