News / Science & Technology

US Government Shutdown Forces Closure of Antarctica Research Stations

Samantha Hansen and her team set up 15 seismic sensors in Antarctic’s Transantarctic Mountains to gather data on earthquakes. (Credit: Samantha Hansen)
Samantha Hansen and her team set up 15 seismic sensors in Antarctic’s Transantarctic Mountains to gather data on earthquakes. (Credit: Samantha Hansen)
Rosanne Skirble
The U.S. government shutdown has reached the end of the Earth.

The National Science Foundation, which receives its budget from the federal government, announced that it will shut down its three stations in Antarctica.

This means research that would have been done during the summer season that began October 1 is now on hold. The loss could be both scientific and financial.

Cash flow

The National Science Foundation has run out of money. It cannot go forward without its proposed $465 million budget. In a statement on its website, the NSF announced, “all field and research activities not essential to human safety and preservation of property will be suspended.”
A seismic station in the process of being installed. The large orange box contains about 200 kilograms worth of batteries, electronics to that help operate the station, which will be lowered into a hole. (Credit: Lindsey Kenyon)A seismic station in the process of being installed. The large orange box contains about 200 kilograms worth of batteries, electronics to that help operate the station, which will be lowered into a hole. (Credit: Lindsey Kenyon)
x
A seismic station in the process of being installed. The large orange box contains about 200 kilograms worth of batteries, electronics to that help operate the station, which will be lowered into a hole. (Credit: Lindsey Kenyon)
A seismic station in the process of being installed. The large orange box contains about 200 kilograms worth of batteries, electronics to that help operate the station, which will be lowered into a hole. (Credit: Lindsey Kenyon)


That is bad news for Samantha Hansen, assistant professor of geological sciences at the University of Alabama. Last year, her team deployed 15 seismic stations in an Antarctic mountain range to study earthquakes. She had planned to return this season to collect the data.   

“If we can’t get down there and if any of the stations are not operating as they should right now, if they have any problem, we’re not going to be able to fix them, because we can’t get there," Hansen said. "And if we can’t fix them, they are not going to run correctly into the upcoming year and we can potentially lose all of that officiated data.”  

Lost data and equipment

Hansen runs the risk of losing both the data and the costly equipment. Located in areas of high snowfall, the sensors would be completely buried and inaccessible by the time next season arrives.  

LISTEN: Shutdown Forces Closure of Antarctica Research Stations
US Government Shutdown Forces Closure of Antarctica Research Stations i
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

“And obviously for the project, it would be a huge loss because we would basically have nothing to work on," she said. "So it’s kind of critical for us, both in terms of the data and taking care of the equipment and being able to work on our research projects of getting back there.”

Researchers in a wide variety of disciplines face that dilemma. Joanne Carney, who follows science policy as director of the Office of Government Relations for the American Association for the Advancement of Science, says legislators' failure to reach an agreement has put an entire research season in limbo for hundreds of projects that can only be done in Antarctica's pristine environment.
    
“This impacts a whole host of disciplines from biological studies of animals like penguins, astronomical research as well as long-term research on climate change and weather,” Carney said.   

Starting from scratch

For these scientists, the shutdown is more than simply a temporary work stoppage.
Seismic installation near McMurdo Field Station shows solar panel, the top of the box peeking out, and the top of a dome that covers the seismometer. (Credit: Paul Carpenter)Seismic installation near McMurdo Field Station shows solar panel, the top of the box peeking out, and the top of a dome that covers the seismometer. (Credit: Paul Carpenter)
x
Seismic installation near McMurdo Field Station shows solar panel, the top of the box peeking out, and the top of a dome that covers the seismometer. (Credit: Paul Carpenter)
Seismic installation near McMurdo Field Station shows solar panel, the top of the box peeking out, and the top of a dome that covers the seismometer. (Credit: Paul Carpenter)
​“There are many areas of science that involve continuous monitoring and interpretation of scientific data, for example in climate change and weather, and so while policy makers in [Washington] DC may view the budget impasse as a hiatus, that doesn’t translate the same for science," she said. "For science it means throw away your research and start from scratch.”  

That's why scientists like Hansen are anxiously waiting for Congress to act. In its statement, however, the National Science Foundation cautioned, “Some activities cannot be restarted once seasonally dependent windows for research and operations have passed, the seasonal workforce is released, science activities are curtailed and operations are reduced.”

Even so, Hansen remains somewhat optimistic.

“I think that there is a lot of hope that once the shutdown is resolved and budgetary issues get taken care of, they will salvage at least part of the field season and maybe we’ll still get to do what we want to do,” she said.

But the clock is ticking. The short Antarctic research season runs from October through February.

You May Like

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid