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"The ultimate attraction is the unknown" - Alex Lowe

My name is Kevin "soon to be polar explorer" Lavigne. For the last three years, I have been teaching at Hanover High School. The high school is located in the picturesque New England town of Hanover, New Hampshire, home of Dartmouth College. This year I am teaching Honors Chemistry, Chemistry and Evolution and Genetics. I have also taught Biology and a course called CAPPS (Chemistry and Physics Problems for Seniors). Before teaching at Hanover High I taught in northern Vermont at Missisquoi Valley Union High School. I graduated from the University of Vermont in 1991. With the beginning of a new millennium, I received some fantastic news, I was accepted into the TEA program and would soon be traveling to the polar regions! While riding the energy high that followed, I reflected upon the wondrous opportunities and adventures that teaching has allowed me to experience.

Early in my teaching career, and the peak of the latest Dinosaur craze sparked by the release of Jurassic Park, I became involved with Dinamations International Society in Grand Junction, Colorado. For three summers, I parcticipated in an ongoing excavation of the Mygatt-Moore site, a Late Jurassic watering hole, working with Dr. James Kirkland, best known for his discovery of a new genus of dromaeosaurid called Utahraptor. During the summer of my third year, I took fourteen students out west with me to "dig dinos".

The last three summers, my interest shifted to marine biology and oceanography. Instead of packing up and traveling west, I explored the possibilities closer to home in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Located in this small town are the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), Woods Hole Oceanography Institute (WHOI), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). I was volunteering in Dr. Roger Hanlon's cephalopod lab located in the Marine Resource Center (MRC) of MBL. Working with Dr. Nadav Shashar, I took on a project of my own design, the investigation of polarized vision in the squid species Loligo pealei. Now I am looking forward to the new possibilities presented by the TEA experience and Antarctica. I will be working with Dr. Ross Virginia, Environmental Studies Chair of Dartmouth College, and through this connection and the proximity of the high school to the college, I hope to involve the students in my polar experience.

McMurdo Dry Valleys - Long Term Ecological Research Project
Dr. Ross Virginia,Dartmouth College

My project is going to take me to the McMurdo Dry Valleys (MCM) where I will parcticipate in the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) project that was established in an effort to document widespread changes in the world1s ecosystem. This project consists of 21 sites that "share a common commitment to create a legacy of well-designed and well-documented long term field experiments and observations for use by future generations to improve the understanding of basic properties of ecosystems as well as factors causing widespread changes in the world1s ecosystem" (for more information check out: http://www.nrel.colostate.edu/ soil/MCM.html and http://www.dartmouth.edu/~ravirg/RAV.research.html).

The McMurdo Dry Valleys (MCM) has been identified as one of the few places on this planet were the first effects of climate change should be observed. This is due to the fact that the MCM ecosystem is sensitive to very small variations in climate for two reasons. First, the change between solid and liquid phase of water is delicately poised in this extreme environment. Second, liquid water is the primary limiting condition for life in Antarctica.

The McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER project has successfully completed seven field seasons (first field season was 1992-93), and since that time it has developed into three major areas of research that serve as umbrellas for several important legacies. The first major research area is hydrology. Understanding the structure and function of the dry valley ecosystem requires understanding hydrological responses to climate, both now and in the past. The second area is biological activity and diversity. Biological activity in the dry valley is directly related to the past and present distribution of water, and is found when liquid water is present and nutrient availability is adequate. Microbial mats and phytoplankton are found in ephemeral streams and perennially ice-covered lakes. Nematodes represent the top of the food chain in the coldest, oldest and driest soils on Earth. The nematode community consists of an endemic species, Scottnema lindsayae , a microbial feeder (bacteria and yeast), Plectus antarcticus, a bacterial feeder, and Eudorylaimus antarcticus, an omnivore-predator. While nematodes are aquatic animals, they are uniquely suited for survival in this extreme environment, since they can enter a survival state, anhydrobiosis, for extended periods. Anhydrobiosis is a state in which the organism are capable of prolonged survival with limiting moisture and temperatures below freezing. Biogeochemical processes, is the last major area of research. Here the research focuses on the mineralization of nutrients, and geochemical weathering that occurs when liquid water is present.

February 2001

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January 2001

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