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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

UTSA Researchers to travel to Antarctica

Kris Rodriguez (photo)
UTSA Public Affairs Office

Sarah Anderson is one of four Texas teachers selected to travel on two-month explorations

(San Antonio)—It’s been more than 100 years since anyone has journeyed to this section of Antarctica’s Amundsen Sea, but that is about to change. Next month five UTSA researchers and a Boerne High School science teacher will join a crew of 22 researchers from several countries to set sail on a two month expedition.

The trip, funded by a $533,000 National Science Foundation (NSF) research grant to UTSA, is designed to study the relationship of sea ice and the Antarctic environment. UTSA’s research team will depart Sept. 1 from Punta Arenas, Chile.

The expedition, sponsored by the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS), is one of 20 annual trips planned involving a teacher accompanying a research expedition. ARCUS coordinates NSF’s PolarTREC educational program, designed to bring educators and researchers together to explore, collaborate and experience life in the Polar Regions.

“We hope that once these teachers get this hands-on experience they will be better equipped to teach science in the classroom and convey their sense of excitement to their students, especially after going through this amazing experience,” said Janet Warburton, PolarTREC program manager.

Participating in the trip aboard the U.S. icebreaker N.B. Palmer will be four UTSA undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral degree students. The UTSA researchers will conduct numerous investigations including observing marine and mammalian life on and under the ice and determining how the sea ice interacts with the ocean and atmosphere. Joining the UTSA team will be 43-year-old Boerne High School science teacher Sarah Anderson.

Anderson was chosen from among 150 educators that submitted applications to the PolarTREC program. “I’ll be interacting regularly by phone and e-mail with my students so they will know about all the research we are conducting aboard the ship,” said Anderson. “I also plan on posting a journal online so teachers and students will be able log on and see notes and photos from Antarctica.”

The trip to Antarctica is the second one in less then a year involving UTSA researchers, last December UTSA assistant professor of earth and environmental science Hongjie Xie and doctoral student Burcu Cicek were part of a three-week international expedition of scientists and educators trying to determine if global warming was affecting the South Pole.

UTSA’ s Antarctica research teams are a part of the Department of Earth and Environmental Science’s Laboratory for Remote Sensing and Geoinformatics. The department hopes to develop a program of researchers that will be able to accompany future NSF-funded trips to conduct sea ice observations.

PolarTREC (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating in the Arctic and Antarctic) is a program funded by the National Science Foundation in which K-12 teachers participate in polar research, working closely with scientists as a pathway to improving science education. PolarTREC builds on the outstanding scientific and cultural opportunities in the Arctic and Antarctic to link research and education through intriguing topics that will engage students and the wider public.

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