Tamara Pletzer downloads data from the soil sensors in front of Canada Glacier. Photo: Ian Hawes
The terrestrial ecosystem in the hyper-arid desert environment of the McMurdo Dry Valleys is microbial. High resolution data is required to understand changes to the environmental processes (for example, soil temperature and moisture), but we cannot deploy enough soils sensors to cover the entire McMurdo Dry Valleys.
This team’s aim was to collect a year’s worth of soil temperature and moisture data, which is being used to test a high resolution down-scaling approach from two different satellite datasets, and to validate a hydrometeorological modelling system. The satellite data and the modelling system will allow us to understand and model climatic and hydrologic conditions in areas of the Dry Valleys over time, and where we don’t have field data.
Taylor Valley was chosen as the research area, as it is one of the most studied valleys of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, and the research area overlapped with the Platform’s thermal bird surveys.
In the 21/22 field season, researchers deployed a network of soil sensors. The sensors were organized in a nested grid to capture spatial variability in temperature and moisture at different scales. GPS was used to navigate to the selected locations and plot conditions were recorded (for example, if there was salt and how wet the ground was). The sensors were checked at the end of the season to make sure they were logging correctly. In the 22/23 season, a year’s worth of data was downloaded and the sensors removed.
Three soil sensors in a 1m x 1m plot. Photo: Tamara Pletzer
This fieldwork was part of the Platform’s Ross Sea Ecosystems Project. It showcases the combination of field work and observational networks with modelling techniques, to monitor and predict changes to Antarctic ecosystems and environmental and climate conditions change.
The research leader is Marwan Katurji. The sensors were deployed by PhD student Tamara Pletzer and Ian Hawes in the 21/22 Antarctic field season, and collected in the 22/23 season by Tamara Pletzer, Eva Bendix Nielsen, Marte Hofsteenge, and University of Canterbury technician Pete Wilson. PhD student Maite Lezama Valdes supported fieldwork planning.