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Rhodes Microbiologists return from research cruise to the Prince Edward Islands

Date Released: Mon, 29 June 2015 12:25 +0200

Professor Rosemary Dorrington and members of her research group, Mr Lucas Chauke and Ms Caro Damarjanan have returned from a six week research cruise to the remote sub-Antarctic, Prince Edward islands.  Marion and Prince Edward islands are situated in the Southern Ocean, approximately midway between the African subcontinent and Antarctica. Marion and Prince Edward are amongst the most remote islands on the planet and can only be reached by ship, a three and a half-day cruise (in good weather) on the RV SA Agulhas II

Watching for killer whales! The mother ship, RV Agulhas II anchored off Marion Base.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rough seas off Goni Plain, with the Boot rock in the distance to the north.

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 The Prince Edward islands are unique terrestrial environments with highly specialised endemic plant, invertebrate and microbial taxa that are important breeding grounds for seals albatross and penguins (see Smith 2004).  However, the island system is showing dramatic evidence of climate change affecting the functioning of both marine and terrestrial ecosystems and favouring introduced alien species. The Rhodes researchers are part of a multi-institutional team investigating interactions between invertebrates, plant and microbes on the islands and their response of the island ecosystems to climate change. Of particular interest is the role of microbial communities in driving nutrient cycling and how these communities respond to changes in the environment.  The Marion Island Base can house up to 100 researchers and support staff during the annual Takeover Cruise, with excellent laboratories for microbiologists and molecular biologists.    Set in an extraordinary field environment, the base provides a unique opportunity to combine fieldwork with laboratory-based research – probably the most remote molecular biology laboratory in the world!

View south towards the Marion Base.

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Molecular biology lab with a stunning view.

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 Wandering Albatross and her chick brave the snow and ice on the Goni Plain.

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