Warming temperatures are transforming the West Antarctic Peninsula. The winter sea-ice season is three months shorter than it was in the 1970s and phytoplankton, the tiny plants that form the base of the food chain, have declined sharply in some regions. The changes spell trouble for Adelie penguins, which favor plankton-eating krill. But humans may also be touched by the warming climate, especially as ice sheets melt and the world’s seas creep higher. The Antarctica Peninsula’s changing landscape has been documented since 1975 from Palmer Station, an island outpost run by the U.S. National Science Foundation, and part of a global network of Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) stations.
The LTER Project at Palmer Station and its lead principal investigator, Hugh Ducklow, a biogeochemist at Columba University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, are featured in a documentary due out next summer, Antarctica: Beyond the Ice, about the Palmer long-term climate change study. The newly-released trailer above offers a short preview.
Ducklow has been traveling since 2001 to Palmer Station, where he is investigating the roles of bacteria and carbon cycle processes in the region. As the lead principal investigator, he oversees six co-investigators, including Doug Martinson, a physical oceanographer at Lamont. “Because the ecosystem is changing so rapidly, it’s relatively easy to study, even in a remote location under harsh conditions,” said Ducklow. “We hope to gain clues to how other ecosystems around the globe will change over the coming decades.”
Produced in part by undergraduates at Rutgers University, the documentary was filmed during the research team’s most recent trip to Antarctica, in January. For more information, read the NSF press release, “NSF-Supported Antarctic Science Documentary Is Also a Teaching Tool for Aspiring Film Students.”