Headline for Featured Item #1 HRI Researcher Terry Palmer Collects Sea Floor Sediment, Tissue from Organisms in Antarctica - Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
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HRI Researcher Terry Palmer Collects Sea Floor Sediment, Tissue from Organisms in Antarctica

June 08, 2012

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Terry Palmer, an associate with the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, was part of a team of scientists from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi that recently conducted environmental monitoring at McMurdo Station, the largest research station on the frozen continent of Antarctica.

The team spent four weeks last winter enduring a wind chill of -10 F and experiencing the effects of a sun that never set. As part of the project, Palmer logged daily journal entries on the “Island to Ice 2011” educational blog, interacted with students, and answered their questions.

In collaboration with researchers from Texas A&M University, the team monitored the chemistry, macrofauna communities, sediment toxicity and animal tissue chemistry to determine if a polluted area of Antarctica is showing improvement. 

“The isolated and concentrated contamination we see now are the result of ocean and land dumping between the 1950s and 1960s,” said Palmer. “We extracted sediment that still smells of oil after all these years.”

Palmer, who said that the bitter cold causes contaminants on land and water to break down slowly, studies how human-induced physical changes affect benthic macrofauna communities of animals on and in the bottom of seas and estuaries. At McMurdo station, he collected ocean floor sediment and tissue from organisms to analyze the effects of contamination.

“Although some very small isolated parts of Antarctica are very polluted, organisms still manage to survive,” he said. “The contaminations are restricted to the sediment sea floor; however, the contaminants have risen up the food chain and are present in the tissues of fish and other mobile species.”

Palmer added that in the specific area studied, some contaminants are decreasing in concentration over time, but not enough to allow a healthy benthic community to occur.

Although it was Palmer’s eighth trip to the world’s fifth largest continent, it was the first time he had experienced diving into the frigid waters of Antarctica.

“I was excited and nervous, but I was able to find bigger, more colorful versions of organisms such as sea anemones, starfish, and sea spiders than I would find in other parts of the world,” he said.

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