Matthew Wood

The Galápagos of the Southern Ocean – Part II: Enderby Island - Journeys to the ice

Apr 06, 2014

Greetings, Scibloggers! Before I begin I should explain my very long hiatus in posting to Sciblogs. In early 2010 I started Journeys to the Ice, an audio podcast and blog on Antarctic science usually featuring recent research from the Antarctic Research Centre at Victoria University of Wellington. Late that year I travelled to the sub-Antarctic islands of New Zealand and Australia and in early 2011 I started a vidcast series based on that trip. Shortly after completing part 1 however, I found myself back in the world of field-based exploration geology, initially on the West Coast, then hunting rare earths in Mozambique during 2012 followed by adventures in Ghana last year. Now that I’m back in Wellington it seems high time that I continue with the sub-Antarctic mini documentaries. Overhauling my editing suite to … Read More

The Galápagos of the Southern Ocean – Part I: Bon Voyage - Journeys to the ice

Feb 17, 2011

The Galápagos of the Southern Ocean is an adventure tourism cruise to the sub-Antarctic islands of New Zeland and Australia run by Christchurch-based Heritage Expeditions. The rich and diverse wildlife of the region is driven by high primary productivity at these latitudes due to upwelling along major ocean fronts. The human history of the islands is one of discovery, environmental degradation and more recently, restoration and conservation. The Enderby Trust provides financial support for young adults to experience the the natural environment of the Southern Ocean and Antarctica on board Heritage Expeditions’ polar research vessel, Spirit of Enderby. The vidcast is optimised for playback on iPhone 4 and 4th Generation iPod Touch. To download the vidcast for your Apple device, simply search and subscribe for free through … Read More

Climate Change and New Zealand’s Future - Journeys to the ice

Feb 02, 2011

ESCI 201: Climate Change and New Zealand’s Future is a Victoria University summer course which draws on the knowledge of many of Wellington’s preeminent experts in the realm of climate change. Much like the structure of the IPCC Assessment Reports, the course begins by examining the scientific basis of climate change and then explores the implications for human societies and the various options for mitigation. Most of the guest lecturers gathered at Rutherford House on Friday for a public panel discussion that brought the three-week course to a close. Professor Jonathan Boston (Director, Institute of Policy Studies, VUW) and Professor Peter Barrett (Climate Change Research Institute, VUW) A political and social challenge The discussion began by focusing on climate change as a challenge for society. As Dr David Wratt, Chief Climate Scientist … Read More

The Greenland Ice Sheet in a high-CO2 world - Journeys to the ice

Jan 06, 2011

Before I introduce the latest instalment of the podcast, I’d like to take the opportunity to say a big hello and happy new year to everyone in the Sciblogs community. I hope you all enjoyed the festive season and that 2011 brings with it plenty of exciting science stories. I should also explain my absence towards the end of last year: my girlfriend and I had the good fortune to be co-recipients of Enderby scholarships (which I posted on early last year) and so we were whisked away at the last minute for an adventure in the sub-Antarctic islands. Keep an eye out for my series of vidcasts on the Galapagos of the Southern Ocean cruise over the next few months. But now to the task at hand… ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————– In … Read More

New Zealand Palynology: Into the West - Journeys to the ice

Nov 10, 2010

The land is fickle. Uplift and denudation can make paleoclimate science on land difficult in some cases and impossible in others. Oh, to think of all the beautiful terrestrial climate records that have been lost to the sands (or silts or clays) of time! Much more reliable is the ocean, where change is measured not in years or decades, but millenia. In central Westland, the pollen and spores of terrestrial plants find their way out to sea in the suspended sediment of rivers and their marine counterparts, submarine canyons (think giant underwater rivers snaking their way down the steep continental slope). At one point on the true right levee of the Hokitika Canyon, 3.2 metres of sediment (including entombed pollen and marine microfossils) has slowly and steadily accumulated over the past 210,000 years. Collected by NIWA’s … Read More

New Zealand Palynology: Look to the East - Journeys to the ice

Nov 02, 2010

When you take a sample of sediment from the seafloor and remove all the carbonate and silica — nearly the whole sample in most cases — what are you left with? Palynomorphs are organic microfossils that include the pollen and spores of terrestrial plants, the cellulose remains of marine phytoplankton called dinoflagellates, and other particulate organic matter. Palynology is an important part of the Antarctic Research Centre’s paleoclimate research because unlike other climate proxies, palynology allows the direct comparison between contemporaneous terrestrial (land plant succession) and marine (dinoflagellate cyst) records. Joe Prebble recently returned to the Antarctic Research Centre to undertake a PhD project in palynology. He’s interested in quantitatively reconstructing environmental conditions of the New Zealand region during Marine Isotope Stage 11, a particularly warm and stable … Read More

Marsden grant takes microbiology to the extreme - Journeys to the ice

Sep 27, 2010

Dr. Charles Lee is a FRST Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Biological Sciences at The University of Waikato. His research into the microbial ecology of extreme environments received a significant financial boost on Friday when the 2010 Marsden Fund grants were announced. The Fast-Start grant will support new research into the relationship between the McMurdo Dry Valleys soils and their resident microbial populations. Studying the microscopic life of this frozen desert could shed new light on the long-term glacial history of the valleys, while providing a valuable biological perspective with which to assess current and future environmental change in the Antarctic. Dr. Lee was kind enough to field a few questions from Journeys to the Ice… The McMurdo Dry Valleys, deep sea hydrothermal vents… It sounds like you … Read More

The Snows of Ruapehu - Journeys to the ice

Sep 13, 2010

Mount Ruapehu could be viewed as New Zealand’s Kilimanjaro: the upper slopes of its formidable volcanic mass tower above the plain below, hosting glaciers that, considering the surrounding desert climes, have only the most tenuous claim to existence. As is the case with its Tanzanian counterpart — vividly documented in the 2006’s An Inconvenient Truth — Ruapehu’s glaciers have diminished considerably during historical times. The 20th Century recession of glaciers around the world has been one of the most ubiquitous and manifest signs of global warming to date. Previously we’ve seen how Antarctic Research Centre scientists have demonstrated this trend in the temperate glaciers of the New Zealand Southern Alps, albeit with anomalous, climate-driven advances of certain glaciers since the early 1980s. The ARC also has a keen scientific interest in … Read More

Reflections of a Sound - Journeys to the ice

Aug 25, 2010

When you’re spending US$15M to drill a hole, you want to make sure it’s in the right place. In the austral summer of ’05/’06, it was still a year until bits would start chewing through rock beneath the McMurdo Ice Shelf (MIS) in the first phase of the ANtarctic DRILLing (ANDRILL) Project. The international science team was busy wrapping up a multi-season geophysical reconnaissance effort, using multichannel seismic reflection profiling to hone in on the ideal site for the next season’s drilling. Using carefully-positioned geophone arrays and controlled (but by no means insignificant) explosive seismic sources, they remotely ‘imaged’ the sedimentary sequence that has gradually accumulated over the last 14 Ma beneath (what is currently) the McMurdo Ice Shelf. Accommodation space for these sediments was initially provided by regional subsidence related to … Read More

The Story Is in the Soil - Journeys to the ice

Aug 03, 2010

Much of the research previously showcased on Journeys to the Ice required highly complex fieldwork systems: oceanographic research vessels and drilling rigs can be stunningly expensive to operate, and may require months of concerted, 24-hour effort by legions of scientists and support staff. The science in this episode of the podcast harks back to the old school of Antarctic field geology. In late 2005, three ARC scientists were dropped off on a barren expanse in the McMurdo Dry Valleys armed only with a couple of spades, a measuring tape, a sachet or five of margarita mix (no room for beer in helicopter cargo allowances unfortunately), and with pockets stuffed with sample bags, set out to see what  paleoenvironmental tales might be hiding beneath their mukluk-clad feet. These valleys are formerly glaciated, … Read More