By Dorota Szuta
Benthic Ecology Lab
To be honest, I was sure this would have been over by now. When the government shutdown first started, I didn’t think it could reasonably last more than a couple of days. Even now in the second week, many people are still not seeing serious ramifications of the shutdown in their own lives. I, however, am feeling its effects greatly.
I started the Moss Landing Marine Lab graduate program last year after working as a research assistant in the Benthic Ecology Lab for a couple of years. My thesis work focuses on changes in Antarctic bottom-dwelling communities along a depth gradient, under the guidance of Dr. Stacy Kim. I’ve taken this current semester off from coursework in order to go to Antarctica to do field work for three months. Despite not being in any classes, I’ve been surprisingly busy getting ready for the trip. In order to physically qualify to work in Antartica, there are a series of medical tests everyone must pass involving EKG’s, full dental x-rays, blood work, and vaccinations. The diving we were planning on doing in Antarctica is deep, in sub-zero temperatures, and under a thick sheet of ice—considerably different than diving here in the Monterey Bay, so I had a lot of dive training to complete. Our team (you can read more about our work here: http://scini-penguin.mlml.calstate.edu/) was scheduled to live in a field camp where we would be collecting data through a hole in the ice with our remotely operated vehicle (ROV) called SCINI, so since the summer we’ve been testing its functioning and practicing driving it. Needless to say, our engineers have been busy.