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Dispatches from an Antarctic Co-op: an intro to Maggie

About Me

My name is Jake Grondin. I’m a rising junior in the College of Science, majoring in Biology, with minors in Physics and Math. I am one of two co-ops currently residing at Palmer Station, Antarctica working in Professor Bill Detrich’s lab. In this blog I am sharing my experiences on this incredible continent, and I hope you will continue to read along.

This co-op is one of the reasons I came to Northeastern, and I’ll start by saying it is most definitely not for everyone. As a research assistant, I work in the labs and stay on station through the Antarctic winter. Even though I’ve only been here for a short time, Palmer Station has become a very special place to me, and I am thrilled to be able to share this continent with the rest of the University and beyond.

If you haven’t already, read Jake’s previous posts here:

Boating

Science!

Mid-winter greetings

When we don’t work

Station Living

The Journey South

As I have expressed in many other posts, I am not alone in this adventure on the continent. Northeastern has sent me down with another co-op, Maggie. I feel as though I have talked about myself quite a bit, and so here’s a little about the other soul representing Northeastern with me!

Who is She?

Maggie is a fourth year biology student with an interest in marine biology. She’s done two other co-ops, one at the Massachusetts State Archives (where she worked with paper) and the other at Harvard Medical school in the Ginty lab (where she worked with mice and neurons). Maggie likes to work with animals whenever possible and has worked with sea turtles and seals while volunteering at the New England Aquarium. Fish are a new animal for her, and she finds them much more slippery than turtles or mice, though just as adorable.

How she got here

Maggie worked in Dr. Detrich’s lab prior to coming on the ice. She did an internship in his lab over the summer, where she familiarized herself with his research and with the icefish embryos we work with now. After the internship, she received an email from Bill simply titled “Antarctica?”, and the rest is history.

Maggie Streeter snowshoeing in “The Backyard” in Palmer Station, Antarctica.

What She Does

Maggie and I are two of the three science personnel on station. Since we are in such a remote location, most of our work involves maintenance and data collection, with analysis taking place back home in Boston or at other universities around the country (and in Canada!). Maggie takes on slightly different projects than myself, focusing mainly on the embryo work which I will go in more detail about later! Essentially, she is the chief person in charge of managing and controlling the fish eggs we have on station, not to mention overseeing the progress of all experimentation related to those eggs; our most valuable assets.

Maggie is also the fish caregiver on station, ensuring the fish (and eggs) do not die. This means balancing temperatures and oxygen levels in the tanks and incubators, feeding the fish, and managing the extensive data related to the fluctuations in the outside environment and their effect on the wellbeing of the aquarium and environmental rooms.

Lastly, Maggie is essentially the historian of her projects, managing and taking all the photographs and keeping the records of all experimentation and progress made in the life of the embryos inside the eggs. She does what little analysis can be done on station, and orders myself and Dr. Le Francois around depending on her findings! Without Maggie on station, the most important experiment we have ongoing would be next to impossible, and we have her to thank for the late nights, and 7 days a week she works to make sure we avoid any emergencies. All of these are just her daily tasks! With what other free time she has, she helps both myself and Dr. Le Francois with our projects, and takes some of the weight off our shoulders as well.

She represents Northeastern well, and I am thrilled to say she is my colleague and friend on and off the ice.

Maggie looking at some fish eggs. She may or may not be retrieving one she dropped in front of the station manager. Photo by station manager Ken.

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