A team of researchers from the College of Charleston are headed to Antarctica for a two-month expedition related to the global carbon cycle and its impact on climate change. Marine Biology Professor Jack DiTullio, students, and researchers from the Hollings Marine Lab will arrive in McMurdo Station, Antarctica on February 7, 2013 and depart on Monday Feb 11. You can follow their research experiences on their blog. You can also follow them on Twitter (#TRACERS).

The research team includes undergraduate Rachel Stevens (senior, marine biology major), marine biology graduate student Jacob Kendrick and Gianluca Paglia, a Swiss intern, as well as Dr. Peter Lee, a College of Charleston research associate at Hollings Marine Lab and Amanda McLenon a research technician at Hollings Marine lab.

“This is a very unique opportunity for the students, one that undergraduates at many universities don’t often get,” DiTullio says. “They will be conducting research under very remote and harsh conditions – similar to what they might experience after graduation when they are researching in the field.”

The project is research is known as TRACERS (TRacing the fate of Algal Carbon Export in the Ross Sea. The research team, led by Chief Scientist Dennis Hansell (University of Miami), will spend approximately two months in the Ross Sea and Southern Ocean aboard the RV/IB Nathaniel B. Palmer. The goal of the research is to sample how phytoplankton community composition and blooms affect various biogeochemical properties in seawater to further understand algal carbon export in the Ross Sea.

DiTullio explains, “We are studying the mechanism and processes that drive the transport of organic carbon into the deep ocean that is produced during the spring and summer by photosynthetic phytoplankton in the western Ross Sea of Antarctica. This production is important with respect to the global carbon cycle as marine algae are instrumental in drawing down atmospheric carbon dioxide into the ocean and  can thereby significantly impact climate change.

Directly following TRACERS, the team will spend a week studying emperor penguins near Cape Colbeck, Antarctica.  The cruise will conclude on April 6, 2013 in Punta Arenas, Chile.

DiTullio is a co-chief scientist on the project along with Alexander Bochdansky (Old Dominion University), Robert Dunbar (Stanford University), and Monica Orellana (Institute for Systems Biology).

College of Charleston students are joined by students from Stanford University, University of Miami, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Old Dominion University, University of California (Santa Cruz), and University of Vienna.