Ph.D. student studies ‘extreme biology’
Nigel D’Souza enjoys the polar view in Antarctica.
While most of us were snugly enjoying the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day, Nigel D'Souza, a third-year doctoral candidate in biological sciences, was embarking on the first leg of a journey to one of the world’s most forbidding spots: McMurdo Station in Antarctica.
D’Souza is one of 25 students selected from a worldwide pool of applicants to participate in a unique training program sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Each student accepted into the program is offered a scholarship to cover travel to McMurdo and living expenses while in Antarctica.
In preparation for their polar stay, the students spent several days in Christchurch, New Zealand, the launching base of the program, before boarding a C-17 military transport plane to McMurdo, the major base in Antarctica of the United States Antarctic Program. Because of bad weather at the pole, it took several days and several tries before they could land there. “I finally reached Antarctica on the evening of the 8th (Friday),” D’Souza reported.
“The primary objective of the program is to teach us the techniques involved in working in extreme environments,” he said. “There will also be new research and the potential for publishing.” He has been assigned to groups working on phytoplankton and
He writes from McMurdo: “Sessions start at 8 a.m. every day and end at around 10 p.m. This includes lectures, discussions, field training, and (in the near future) lab work.
The NSF-supported research base has well-equipped laboratories for the kinds of educational and student research activities in the courses.
Before they could begin learning the hands-on techniques for conducting science under realistic Arctic conditions, D’Souza and his fellow students spent the first few days at McMurdo in hardcore survival training.
The program’s courses complement D'Souza's dissertation research studying diatom algae that live under the ice during winter in Lake Erie. “I couldn’t think of anything better to help me with my own research than this experience,” D’Souza said happily.
He has been working with Dr. Michael McKay, biological sciences, on the project, which has received support from the Ohio Lake Erie Commission (Lake Erie Protection Fund) and, most recently, from Ohio Sea Grant.
“It seems like I will be going through some pretty thorough training in working with marine phytoplankton under the ice," D'Souza says. "Other groups of researchers here have insights into different aspects of polar biology that I think would provide insights into various aspects of the Winter Project.”
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Bill Jenkins ’60, 1958 Phi Kappa Tau chapter president, does his part to demolish a wall during the Phi Kappa Tau closing ceremonies on Jan. 17. As a fundraiser for the Hole in the Wall camps for seriously ill children, the fraternity was accepting a $1 donation for each swing.
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