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Algae are microscopic plants and they grow amongst the mosses and always in areas with a regular water supply

The Earth’s rotation and the prevailing Antarctic weather conditions have acted ever since Antarctica split completely from the other Gondwana continents to produce a current flowing around Antarctica from west to east. This current is known as the “great ocean conveyor”, because it connects the three great southern hemisphere ocean basins, the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific, allowing water, heat, salt and other properties to flow from one to the other. However, it prevents southward flowing warmer waters from the sub-tropics and tropics from reaching Antarctica and keeping its climate a little warmer.

Antarctica NZ is the government organisation responsible for overseeing New Zealand’s activities in Antarctica. In a cooperative arrangement with the USAP, Antarctica NZ provides logistic support for New Zealand researchers in Antarctica.

A treaty signed by over 40 nations which states that Antarctica must forever be used only for peaceful purposes. It promotes scientific research and the sharing of information between countries.


Bacteria and Archaea are both unicellular organisms that, unlike the Eukaryotes, have no cell nuclei. Although Bacteria and Archaea are similar in appearance, they are actually as different from each other as a human from a butterfly. In fact, one can argue that a bacterium is more different from an archaea than a human is from a butterfly since they belong to different domains of life.

This occurs the day before you fly home from Scott Base in Antarctica. You have to ‘drag’ all your bags and equipment to a weigh station at the far end of the base. Everything except your ‘carry on’ baggage is taken away and loaded on palettes ready for the flight north.

This is a compound word abbreviating ‘biological diversity’. It refers to the diversity of life that occurs from the level of the gene right through to ecosystems. Quite often it is used to denote or allude to the number of species that live in a particular habitat, for example, ‘biodiversity hotspot’.

This is also a compound word referring to the biodiversity that occurs within a specific area in conjunction with the physical and chemical features (e.g. geology, soil chemistry) that are all collectively responsible for the complexity of the habitat.

The C130 Hercules aircraft that we sometimes use for travel to Antarctica can fly for around 10 hours before refueling. The flight to Antarctica is about 8 hours. If the weather in Antarctica deteriorates and then plane is unable to land, it will not have enough fuel to return to New Zealand. So, when the pilots are flying to Antarctica they reach a ‘point of safe return’ or PSR. At this point, they contact the airfield in Antarctica and if the weather is bad, they turn around and return to Christchurch – like a boomerang.


No longer considered insects, this is the largest subclass of modern hexapods.  For more information please see ‘Springtails’ below.

This is the process that occurs when continents split apart due to plate tectonic activity. The process often starts with a long, narrow fissure in the Earth which marks a zone where the Earth’s crust has got very thin as a result of being pulled apart during plate tectonics. Continental rifts are thousands of kilometers in length and hundreds of kilometers in width, and they are associated with earthquakes and volcanoes.

Primitive organisms that, as their name indicates, are actually large bacteria. They were one of the first photosynthetic organisms to become successful on Earth and were dominant for several billion years from 2 to 0.6 billion years ago.


This refers to the sequencing and use of short strands of DNA for the accurate identification of plant and animal species. For further information please visit

The top level of biological classification or taxonomy, which goes as follows: Domain -> Kingdom -> Phylum -> Class -> Order -> Family -> Genus -> Species. The three domains of life are Bacteria, Archaea, and Eukarya.


Evolution and Biodiversity in the Antarctic This programme combines the research communities and aims of the past SCAR programmes of RiSCC, EVOLANTA and EASIZ. For further information, visit

The largest and most common vegetation type in the Dry Valleys, Endolithics live beneath the rock surface for protection and warmth.

Ecology is the interdisciplinary scientific study of the distribution and abundance of organisms and their interactions with their environment.

An ecosystem is a complete community of living organisms and the nonliving materials of their surroundings.

Our principal end-users (Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Antarctica New Zealand, science transfer specialists and tourist operators) need information on biodiversity to enable conservation and protection management as mandated by the Antarctic Treaty and the Madrid Protocol. Our model will provide that information in a form readily and more easily accessible by our end-users. This, together with the quality of the science, will allow MFaT and AntNZ to maintain their senior positions in the international forums of the Treaty Nations that oversee Antarctica and to contribute substantially to the outcomes of the IPY.

Organism that have cell nuclei. Eukaryotic organisms range very widely in size and complexity, from unicellular fungi (e.g., baker’s yeast) to metazoans (i.e., multicellular) like plants, animals, and human


A fungus is any member of a large group of eukaryotic organisms that includes microorganisms such as yeasts and molds, as well as the more familiar mushrooms. Fungi can be found in the Dry Valleys within endolithic communities as well as in moss vegetation.


Specialised computer software specifically designed for the creation, management and display of spatial data.

Geomorphology is the scientific study of landforms and the processes that shape them. Geomorphologists seek to understand why landscapes look the way they do, including landform history and dynamics, and predict future changes through a combination of field observation, physical experiment, and numerical modeling.


‘Helo’ is a brevity term used for Helicopter.


Refers, generically, to any animal without a vertebral column (or spine). This is an incredibly diverse group of organisms ranging from small worms to giant squid and includes the well-know insects and spiders. In Antarctica, the largest terrestrial invertebrates are the insect-like springtails and mites (most less than 1.5mm).

The International Polar Year is a large scientific programme focused on the Arctic and the Antarctic from March 2007 to March 2009. For further information, visit


Several aircraft used for transport to Antarctica are jet powered including the C-17 Globemaster III, Airbus A319 and the previously used C-141 Starlifter and C-1 Galaxy. Other aircraft such the C-130 (Hercules) are turboprop.


Katabatic winds (from the Greek word katabatikos which means ‘going down’) are cold winds whose origins are in the cold dense air atop the Antarctic polar plateau reach speeds in excess of 300 km/h


The Latitudinal Gradient Project (LGP) brings together the thoughts and energies of international scientists in a focused way, while maintaining a degree of individual research direction as well as strengthening collaborations between partners in the Ross Sea region. For further information, visit

The Long Term Ecological Research Network is a worldwide network of 1800 scientists and students investigating ecological processes over long periods and large distances.For further information visit:

Lichens are actually a composite organism and consist of a cooperative association between a fungus and a photosynthetic partner (usually a green alga or blue-green alga). They tend to grow as a crust over rocks in Antarctica.


Metamorphism is the process that occurs when the minerals and the nature of a rock changes due to high temperatures and pressures. For example, metamorphism occurs during the formation of mountain ranges when two tectonic plates collide. This collision causes some rocks to be buried deep in the Earth where temperatures can reach several hundred degrees Celsius and the pressures are very high. During metamorphism, limestone turns into marble, granite into gneiss and mudstone into schist.

Short for microorganisms, microbes are microscopic living organisms usually too small to be seen with the naked eye. Antarctic microbes include bacteria, nematodes, tardigrades and rotifers.

Microbiology is the study of unicellular or cell-cluster microscopic organisms, including eukaryotes such as fungi and protists, and prokaryotes. Viruses, though not strictly classed as living organisms, are also studied. In short; microbiology refers to the study of life and organisms that are too small to be seen with the naked eye.

Mites are very small animals that are closely related to spiders. In Antarctica, they live under rocks and in soil and eat mostly fungus growing in the soil.

Mosses are green plants that reproduce by spores instead of seeds and can withstand drying and extreme temperatures by becoming dormant.


Nematodes are round worms that live in water provided within the interstitial spaces between soil particles and range in size from <1 mm to >2 mm. 


Penguins are flightless birds that feed on fish and krill. Live Adelie penguins are seen occasionally wandering in the Dry Valleys. Sadly, most of these individuals have lost their sense of direction and are unlikely to survive.

Permafrost is soil and/or rock that remains below 0°C for at least two consecutive years, and as such moisture in the form of water or ice does not necessarily need to be present. Two forms of permafrost are present in the Antarctic Dry Valleys: in coastal areas where there is a greater availability of moisture, ice-cemented permafrost is prevalent, whereas inland valleys dominantly contain dry-frozen permafrost, a form of permafrost possibly unique to Antarctica. Permafrost can exist from a few centimeters below the surface to over a meter depending on factors such as elevation and orientation.

Plutonic rocks form deep within the Earth from magma, or semi molten rock. The magma cools very slowly because it is insulated by the rest of the Earth’s crust around it, and the crystals that form are large (centimeter or more). Plutonic rocks are part of the ‘pluming’ beneath volcanoes and they supply magma which eventually reaches the Earth’s surface. Granite is a common example of a plutonic rock.


Q-hut is the “hut” (wing) where the scientist’s sleeping quarters are located within Scott Base.


The sector of Antarctica within the lines of latitude from 160o east to 150o west and from 60o south to 90o south claimed by New Zealand.

The rotifers make up a phylum of microscopic and near-microscopic psuedocoelomate (has a three-layered body that has a fluid-filled body cavity (pseudocoelom) between the the innermost and middle tissue layers) animals common in freshwater environments throughout the world. Rotifers range in size from .1-.5 mm.


Sedimentary rocks are formed by processes occurring on the Earth’s surface. They are made of eroded fragments of larger rocks which get transported by rivers and wind and eventually accumulate. As they get buried by more and more sediment they are compressed and solidify into layers of sedimentary rock. There are many types of sediment including sand, mud and pebbles and sometimes fossils are present. Sedimentary rocks record what environments were like millions of years ago.

Springtails (scientific name Collembola) derive their common name from the long fork-like ‘spring’ or furcula found on the underside of their abdomens. This can allow them to move from one area to another or to avoid predators such as birds and other insects. However, not all species actually have ‘springs’. Those living in the soil or under rocks have reduced or absent furcula.

Subduction is the process in which one of the Earth’s tectonic plates is pushed downward beneath another. The plate which is forced downwards into the Earth is subject to very high temperatures and pressures and starts to melt. This molten rock eventually rises through the Earth to form volcanoes on the Earth’s surface.


Known as polyextremophiles, they have been found living in hot springs, the bottom of the ocean floor and beneath glacial ice. Tardigrades range in size from <.5mm to >.1mm.

A Terrestrial Ecosystem is community of organisms and their environment that occurs on the land. Terrestrial ecosystems are distinguished from aquatic ecosystems by the lower availability of water and the consequent importance of water as a limiting factor.


The United States Antarctic Program, is funded predominantly by the National Sciences Foundation (NSF). This organisation coordinates operational support for United States researchers in Antarctica.


Although vastly limited when compared to more temperate areas, there is a variety of plant life present in the Dry Valleys. These include lichens, mosses, algae and cyanobacteria (blue-green algae).


Although the extreme cold is more obvious, and despite the vast stores of ice and snow on the continent, water is likely one of the most important limiting factors on life in the Dry Valleys. Because of the cold temperatures, there is little precipitation in the Dry Valleys, which only occurs as snow. Water that does exist only occurs for short periods in the summer when the ice on glaciers and snow patches melt.

Xerophilous refers to plants such as lichens and animals such as nematode worms that are able to withstand long periods without any water.

Zinc ointment is used to protect your nose against the harsh ultra-violet rays resulting from the ozone hole over Antarctica.