NFS May Abort US Antarctic Research Due to Government Shutdown

First Posted: Oct 05, 2013 10:57 AM EDT

The U.S. Antarctic program initiated by the NSF (National Science Foundation) is likely to be aborted by mid October because of the government shut down.

Three of NFS research stations were still carrying on work in astrophysics, ecology and glaciology after the government shutdown on October 1, 2013, but they are likely to run out of funds by  mid October,  according to Lockheed Martin, the contractor of NSF's Antarctic operations.

 "The shutdown complicates an already unstable funding situation for U.S. Antarctic science," said Mahlon Kennicutt, a retired oceanographer and a former president of the 31-nation Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research,  according to a report in Nature journal.

The research period runs October to February but the closure of the U.S. government will leave the research hanging midway.

"We are in a major planning mode to begin an orderly transition to caretaker mode at the stations," a Lockheed official wrote in an Oct. 4 e-mail to researchers. "A decision will be made early next week."

The researchers are very upset about this situation; some even feel that cancelling the research operations this year could affect their previously accumulated data.

"The prospect of losing an entire Antarctic field season is just hell," said Diana Wall, an ecologist at Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

"If we are not there to capture the demographics this year, our whole data set could be unintelligible," she added.

The shut down has also affected NASA's campaign for assessing the isolated ice sheets of Antarctica.

"This was going to be our chance to see the ice sheet in a way that had never been done before," Robin Bell, a glaciologist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, said in the report. 

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