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Nicole Schanke, Instructor in Biological Sciences at Warner University will soon be leaving on a research expedition to Antarctica from mid-December to mid-January.

Schanke said that she was invited to participate in the expedition and will be studying “bloom dynamics” of phytoplankton in the South Sea.

Usually, the surface waters of the Southern Ocean are dominated by one type of phytoplankton, with deeper waters being dominated by a different type of phytoplankton. However, the deep-water species has become more prevalent in the surface waters. This change in phytoplankton community has the potential to impact carbon and nutrient cycles in the Southern Ocean.

“When the temperature, light and nutrient conditions are right, the phytoplankton community reproduces rapidly, or blooms,” Schanke explained.

These blooms are important to the world, because during them, the phytoplankton take large amounts of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Schanke said that she is eager to see a part of the world that most people never will, and she is excited about doing the work.

“I love the mental agility that comes with doing research,” Schanke said. “I love asking questions, looking for answers and trying to piece together a story about what is occurring in our oceans.”

The expedition is called “CICLOPS” which stands for “Cobalamin and Iron Co-Limitation of Phytoplankton Species”, and the grant funding the research is through the National Science Foundation.  It is a joint effort between labs at the College of Charleston, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Stanford University.

Nathaniel B. Palmer ship

Schanke said that she would be boarding the icebreaker ship, the Nathaniel B. Palmer in Punta Arenas, Chile on December 16th and then sail south across the Southern Ocean to the Antarctic Peninsula, where most of their research will be done in the Ross Sea.

Schanke’s role on the exhibition will be to filter the large amounts of seawater collected to determine what groups of phytoplankton are found within.

This new experience is something that Schanke hopes will help her grow as a person and as a teacher.

“[The expedition] will definitely push me out of my comfort zone, but those types of experiences tend to be worth it,” Schanke said.

“I am hoping this research expedition will give me new ways to make science real to my students.”