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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Science goes on vacation: A book for travelers discovering Antarctica's microscopic forest


Antarctica is one of the fastest warming regions in the world. More than eight out of ten of the glaciers that line the Western Antarctic Peninsula are in retreat, having impacts at local and global scales. Documenting these changes over time and in expansive areas can be challenging due to the harsh environmental conditions and the associated costs of explorations in remote locations. It also can be hard for people to understand how they are connected to the ocean and to realize that their daily life decisions might affect places like Antarctica that seem so far away.

Luckily, citizen science, also known as participatory science, provides an opportunity to tackle these challenges together. FjordPhyto is a citizen science program from the Vernet Laboratory that works to understand polar fjords through community efforts. It is a voluntary partnership among scientists and travelers visiting Antarctica on tourism vessels, who contribute by taking phytoplankton samples and registering oceanographic information. By participating in programs like this, travelers gain a better sense of the place they are visiting and its threats.

This Capstone Project was conceived to enrich the traveler's experiences and create a product that could help connect more people with the Southern Ocean. It is part of a larger endeavor to produce and publish a bilingual phytoplankton identification book for non-scientific audiences, highlighting the different groups found at the Western Antarctic Peninsula and the collaborative science value. Besides serving as a consultation book for tourists and citizen scientists in the field, it aims to surprise people, inspire them, reinforce their explorer's spirit, and communicate the microscopic forests' relevance in the Antarctic ecosystems.

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