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Life at the Bottom of the Earth

After graduating with a B.S. in Environmental Science, Technology, and Policy, alumnus James McClure ventured far from the temperate climate of Monterey Bay. After speaking with a friend studying a PhD in glaciology at Louisiana State University (LSU), James made the decision to apply. It was just a quick jump from there to the Antarctic.

James works in the McMurdo Dry Valleys Long-Term Ecological Research project (MCM LTER) through Dr. Peter Doran’s lab. This project is based in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica. Their work is funded through the National Science Foundation (NSF) and LSU, and it primarily focuses on monitoring the limnology of the McMurdo Dry Valley lakes. James and his team, C-511, measure the movement of surface ice and collect sediment and water samples. They must also monitor and maintain any automated electrical equipment, which James says can be a little difficult in below freezing weather and thick gloves. But he trudges on as the work is important for scientists to better understand how life can persist in such inhospitable environments.

James credits CSUMB, as well as instructors Dr. Doug Smith, Dr. Steve Moore, and Dr. Fred Watson, for the scientific background he needed to begin his research. Dr. Smith’s geology courses proved crucial to developing the field skills he needs for the geological surveys. Dr. Moore’s course increased his technical and electrical talents, allowing him to understand the intricate workings of the McMurdo Dry Valley field equipment. Dr. Fred Watson increased James’s data management capacity through his environmental monitoring courses.

Although it can get tough, working in such a beautiful place undoubtedly has its perks as James himself says “each day is more of an adventure than the last.” Congratulations James, we look forward to hearing more amazing news from you!

James fixing the machinery

*Photo courtesy of James McClure

School of Natural Sciences

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