New Technologies Changing Research Practice in Antarctica, by film student Darrel Gordon


Professor Oscar Schofield describing new ocean technologies

The scene that I am shaping for the Beyond the Ice documentary project centers around Oscar Schofield, one of the LTER’s head scientists. Oscar’s research focuses on observing microscopic organisms called phytoplankton.  He works with the LTER network by analyzing the effects of climate change on the phytoplankton population and the food web built around it.

Oscar enthusiastically participated in several interviews and scenes while on the ship, and continues to assist the project now by providing scientific lectures as well as additional interviews.  I’ve specifically been handling the footage from the voyage concerning the Rutgers glider robots.  These technological marvels are deployed in the Antarctic to collect massive amounts of information regarding the physical and biological properties of the environment and their trended change.  The gliders are able to cover larger areas of the ocean with less risk and menial labor for the scientists.  In my footage Oscar details how researchers are using innovative strategies to more efficiently use this technology.  They’ve started to tracking penguins and other animals using radio transmitters and sending the gliders to follow them.  Essentially allowing these animals to lead the glider fleet allows the researchers to analyze the biological hotspots that the creatures intuitively navigate to, which allows them to collect more relevant data.  These gliders are changing the face of environmental research, and in the future will allow scientific data like these to be shared among the public.

Working on Beyond the Ice has basically defined hands on learning for me.  Being able to hone my production and communication skills while contributing to such an important project is not only fun, but makes me feel like my work will make a difference.  I enjoy this project personally because it combines so many of my many interests.  I get to film and edit video, use story telling techniques to communicate concepts, learn about cutting edge scientific research, help educate the public, encourage social and policy change and hopefully help the global community.  And what’s great is that I am given so much creative freedom while still working closely and cooperating with a motivated team of students and staff.  I think that universities need more programs like this that afford real experience alongside formal education to engage students.  I’m sure coordinating such programs isn’t easy, but it’s something that I think they could strive towards.