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Who are we? Liezel and Karin: Part 2



Previously we wrote about publishing weekly biographies on new and veteran team members. This is the fourth edition of these bios (Part 2). In Part 1 of this  week we wrote about Liezel and here we introduce Karin. Karin has actually been to Antarctica before, during the previous Austral summer. She is also not a student studying under this project, but rather works with Dr Gwynneth Matcher. Dr Matcher is a researcher from the Biochemistry and Microbiology Department at Rhodes University and is the Principal Investigator for a project focusing on microbial ecology in Dronning Maud Land. Since the two projects visit similar areas in the Antarctic we often work together and share logistics.

If you have missed any of our previous posts you can read about them following the links below:

  • During Week 1 we chatted to Dave and Nicola.
  • During Week 2 we chatted to Cam and Jenna.
  • Week 3 was spent getting to know Rosie and Tebogo better.


Biography # 4 of the ‘Newbie’ (or in this case not-so-newbie) Participants: Karin Staebe

1. What is your name?

Karin Staebe.

2. Where are you from?

Cape Town.

3. What drew you to Rhodes University?

The opportunity to go to Antarctica.

4. Why are you going to Antarctica?

It has always been something I wanted to do. My high school science teacher over-wintered there when he was much younger and that was the first time I found out that we do exciting science in South Africa and that I don’t have to move to a different country to be involve or at the front line of my field of study.

5. What is the name of your PhD thesis?

Anthropogenic impact on microbial populations in impacted (near research stations) and presumed pristine soils (i.e. remote nunataks) of Antarctica.

6. What is your research focus there?

I am investigating the microbial populations within nunatak soils as well as sampling airborne bacteria at these sites to establish whether these populations form due to local conditions or whether wind-dispersal plays a role in species distribution.  I am hoping to compare these communities to microbial studies in other biogeographical regions of Antarctica.

7. Are you looking forward to going South with your current team members?

I cannot wait to go down again. I fell in love with the continent the first time I went there.  It is an amazing experience. A lot of the time it feels very surreal when you walk in the field, there is no smell really in the air.  You can hear team mates talking clearly from quite the distance. And tasting the clean water from meltwater pools is the best.

8. Have you been on the S.A. Agulhas II before?

Yes, during my first trip down I had the opportunity to be on the Agulhas II.

9. Have you been to Antarctica before?

Yes, during the 2015/2016 Austral summer.

10. Have you ever had a white Christmas before?

I had my first during our visit to the Norwegian Antarctic station, Troll.  They were gracious hosts and we had a lot of fun there.  The food was very different to ours, which was a very nice experience.

11. Do you have special plans for Christmas?

I have not thought that far yet to be honest.

12. What are you looking forward to or are most excited about?

Base-life (at SANAE IV) is by far the best! Everyone works as a team, no matter what position you hold. Also it is (kind of) socially acceptable to live in overalls…. Finally,  fieldwork and getting to see other areas apart from the area just outside of the base is quite the privilege – a privilege I am very grateful for.

13. Are you worried about anything or does something about the trip scare you?

I am always worried I didn’t pack enough of something. It’s a bit remote and I can’t nip off to the shops if I forgot/lost something.

14. How have you prepared for the trip? 

I have learned from my first trip that our work is a lot more physically demanding than you expect. The altitude, very dry air, cold and amount of clothes you wear and gear you have to trek with can be physically challenging at times (especially the first few days). So this year I am getting fit with some running as well as building some strength which will hopefully make me a lot less miserable on the first day.

15. Are you taking a luxury item with you, like something you won’t have access to once you’ve left?

For me it is definitely my mom’s rusks. They are being packed again along with more chocolate (it’s the currency on base for favours).

16. What do you think you will miss the most during the trip?

I will miss fresh fruit and veg a lot.  You crave the strangest things down there!  Something you also miss are plants. Out there everything looks brown (rocks) and white (snow and ice) and although this is pretty, by the end you want some more colour in your life.

17. Do you have anything specific you want to do while you are there? Something you can only do on a trip like this?

What happens in the field stays in the field.

#2016fieldpreparations #Antarctica #landscapeprocessesinantarcticecosystems #LPiAE


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