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Icy continent research on show

Icy continent research on show

From studying penguin poo to looking at climate change - it's all in a day's work for Waikato University scientists in Antarctica.

Waikato University's team at the ice each summer is New Zealand's biggest terrestrial biological research team.

The university is to host this year's annual Antarctic conference involving a wide range of researchers involved with the icy continent. It will run from Tuesday 13 April to Thursday 15 April in the S Block lecture theatre complex.

"Waikato University has been involved in more than 30 years of continuous research in Antarctica," says biological sciences' Professor Allan Green. "When our researchers assemble at Scott Base over the summer, they make up the country's biggest terrestrial biological research team. Our work at Scott Base is generously assisted by our Vice-Chancellor Bryan Gould."

At the conference, Professor Green and Lars Barbyn will be sharing research on changes to vegetation at Cape Hallett over a period of more than 40 years. "Things have definitely changed there," says Professor Green. "While this is no conclusive proof of global warming, it does mean we now know that we are able to detect the effects of climate change in Antarctica."

A research presentation by Waikato University's Nick Ling, who is working in conjunction with Joe Waas, will look at the stress effect of humans on Adelie penguin colonies. Previously researchers have taken blood samples but the Waikato team has used a novel method of monitoring the droppings of the birds to measure stress. They are also examining whether human disturbance influences where penguins build their nests and the timing of key reproductive events like egg laying and hatching.

Other Waikato presentations include:

* research by Shona Duncan and Roberta Farrell on whether the historic huts on Ross Island are decaying

* Chris Hendy's research on Dry Valley lakes and their sediments and their relationship to past climates

* A discussion by Angela McGaughran on the genetic diversity and history of insects (collembolan) in the Wright and Victoria Valleys, in Southern Victoria Land.

Presentations from outside Waikato University are extremely varied and include:

* Kim Hill (TV One) on her experiences in Antarctica last season;

* Anne-Marie Schwarz (NIWA, Hamilton) on how sea weeds survive the near-darkness under the sea ice;

* Kevin Sullivan (Ministry of Fisheries) on just how many toothfish are there in the Ross Sea.

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