Today was our day off for the week. So what did we do.. worked. After a leisurely morning of too much food and great company we headed down to the dive locker. The people that we talked with at breakfast are getting ready for the south pole traverse. This traverse is how all of the supplies, scientific and otherwise, are taken to the south pole. Driving across an always changing, crevasse filled continent is no rapid matter. It takes them the better part of two months living on the ice and driving at… get this… an average speed of 7 mph to make it to Pole. The main discussion today by the Traverse Crew was the best way to broadcast music between the different tractors to make the drive more tolerable. Supposedly the scenery is epic.
Our dive site was the good old Jetty. We collected the last of our cores from this site until the end of the season at which point we will take another set. Rory’s glove leaked and so we did only what we had to do and then headed back to the warmth above. It is hard to get frost bite underwater but it is easy to have a very cold painful hand. Rory toughed it out so we got our dive tasks done but if you want to know what he went through, make a bath of salt water, fill it with ice and hold your hand in it for 30 minutes. It is that much fun.
However the best news of the day came when we got the results of one of our ongoing experiments. In this experiment we are trying to identify which antibiotic is most effective against marine sediment Microbiota in the Antarctic. As one of the linchpins of our project revolves around removing microbial activity and antibiotic effectiveness is different wherever one goes, this is a important aspect to our study. To test this we added yeast extract (i.e. bacteria food) and five antibiotics into filtered seawater with 1 ml of sediment. We measured oxygen uptake as active bacteria will use the oxygen much like we do and we can easily identify those antibiotics that cause the greatest change in oxygen uptake. The more oxygen used, the less effective the antibiotic tested. We also had two controls – one with no yeast extract and one with yeast extract and no antibiotics. Clearly ever antibiotic tested worked well in the Antarctic habitat (see the figure to the left). This is likely because, unlike most places on the planet where antibiotics from human and agriculture run off expose even marine bacteria to a suite of antibiotics allowing their populations to adapt to many different antibiotic forms.