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22 November, 1999

I got up this morning at 0230 hours, I've been sleeping since 2100 hours. Not good to get too much sleep you know. Ya right.

It was snowing like crazy outside and it gave McTown a new look of freshness. By the time I got dressed the snow had almost stopped falling, but the wind was now working its magic and there were near whiteout conditions, kind of an eerie set of conditions. I think a good part of this lie in the fact that today marks the second anniversary of my late wife Ingrid's death.

Went to the computer lab and check emails then sent off yesterday's journal. While there I ran into a real interesting fellow, all I know is his first name (Richard), and I spent good piece of the morning talking with him. Richard was member of the Antarctic Pack Ice Seals group (APIS) that was doing "An Examination of the Genetic Patterns and Phylogeny". This group is studying the greater then 50% of the world's population of seals, comprising 80% of the world's total pinniped biomass, that inhabit the pack ice region surrounding Antarctica. These seals, as a whole, are the dominant predators in the Southern Ocean ecosystem.

The objective of this group's research is to investigate the genetic diversity among widely dispersed populations of the four species of Antarctic seals and to examine the phylogentic relationship among these species. This relationship, what taxonomical groups (e.g. kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species, subspecies) they belong to, will be determined by analysis of the mitochondrial DNA (DNA that is found in the mitochondria, or "power plants" of the cell). DNA (deoxyribonuccleic acid) is the part of the cell or cell part, organelle, that contains genetic information, the so called "blue print of life." Remember the nucleus of eukaryotic cells has DNA as do mitochondria and the chloroplasts found in plant cells. Both of these two organelles that have their own separate and different DNA.

This DNA will be collected by the researchers going by helicopter or Zodiac boat to ice flows where they will capture the seals using a head bag restraint.. The seal will be tagged and a small tissue samples will be taken from the interdigital webbing (tissue between where the toes/fingers would be if they had them). This DNA will be sequenced, that is looking at the nucleotide base pairings that exists. Once these are established the researchers will look at how these sequences diverge among the four species of seals. This information will provide good insight and strong evidence as to how these four species of seals have evolved.

This is pretty nifty stuff. I think this shows nicely how a scientists can, or in many instances must, wear many different hats: As a naturalist and rugged adventurer who is willing to risk landing by chopper or small rubber boat on a moving ice flow and then putting a head bag restraint on a mammal that might weigh 2,000 + pounds As a delicate surgeon who must remove a piece of tissue from the flipper on a not very happy seal. Or as a molecular biologist who takes the cells, the cell organelles and finally the DNA apart. There is something here for everyone. Wow!!

Spent the rest of the afternoon contacting, or should I say trying to contact members of our project. After that exercise in futility, I then had a meeting with a parcticipant in our project who, because of her work schedule, cannot attend. Regular classes.

Being flexible is one thing, but trying to keep track of whoyou are to meet and where and when is a totally other different concept.. Following that I returned to my dorm to gather up materials for tonight's class.

I thought the class went very well. Dr. Bert Yankielum shared his role as one of the researchers on the ITASE team and Dr. Paul Mayeski, chief PI for the project, gave a general over view. Bert went into great detail on how his radar works, he invented it and he patented it. Bert's radar will provide high-resolution pictures of the surface and many meters below the surface of the snow.

The people in the class are finally starting to contact their teachers and many of them have already received excited email (if there is such a thing) back from students and teachers alike). This project will work. It has to.

It is now 1215 hours and I am hungry and tired. I just got back from midrats and now I am real tired and real full. It has been a long and emotional day long day, 0230 hours to 0215 hours. This sounds to me like about a 24-hour work day; or pretty darn close. So good night; and stay warm.

Penguin Pete the Polar Man

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