Project leader : Dr Megan Balks, Earth and Ocean Science Department, University of Waikato

History of the project:

Megan has been involved in research related to Antarctic soils since 1990 and she has completed 18 fieldtrips to "the ice". A large
portion of her work has related to assessing the impacts of human activities on Antarctic soils and terrestrial environments. Her work commenced researching impacts on soil properties, and the ice content of permafrost, following physical disturbance with Dr Graeme
Claridge and Ian Campbell - two pioneers of Antarctic soil science. Megan has since had a long association with Landcare Research where her collaborative work (led by Dr Jackie Aislabie from Landcare Research) has focused on disturbances such as effects of oil spills, and the rate of recovery of soils from both hydrocarbon contamination and other disturbances. More recently her work has focused on better defining the spatial distribution of soils to underpin interpretive maps on soil vulnerability to disturbance and to better characterise the extent and distribution of Antarctic soils.

Dr Balks has also been part of the establishment and management of a network of Antarctic soil/permafrost climate monitoring stations in collaboration with Landcare Research and the USDA. The climate station data contribute to the CALM (Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring) network (http://www.udel.edu/Geography/calm/about/permafrost.html).

Much of her work over the last few years has fitted within the auspices of the Latitudinal Gradient Programme (www.lgp.aq). Megan has also been an active member of the ANTPAS (Antarctic Permafrost and Soils) group - an international group who bring Antarctic soil and permafrost researchers together working towards a common goal of establishing a co-ordinated soil map of the entire Antarctic Continent and co-ordinating soil and permafrost temperature data collection. (see http://erth.waikato.ac.nz/antpas/ )

Current work:

Megan is currently contracted to the Landcare Research FRST funded programme entitled "Antarctic Environmental Domains" (http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/research/soil/Ant_soils/eda.asp). 

Megan Balks recently attended an “experts workshop” in Alaska, to contribute to the development of a Universal Soil Classification system for cryosols (frozen soils) that is being developed to better coordinate soils information across the Arctic, Antarctic and alpine regions of the planet.

Dr Balks is currently supervising one PhD student and two MSc students working on Antarctic-related projects. Tanya O'Neill has recently submitted her study on the rates of recovery of soils following human disturbances and is travelling to continue her project with the Spanish Antarctic programme on the Antarctic peninsula this summer.  Josh Scarrow is working on the soil characterisation and soil landscape relationships in the Beardmore Glacier Region of Antarctica. Josh recently won an award for the best poster for a young (under 35) scientist at the Joint Australian and New Zealand Society of Soil Science Conference in Tasmania.  Malcolm McLeod recently graduated with his PhD on soil mapping in the Wright Valley of Antarctica. Holly Goddard is working on her MSc thesis looking at soil temperatures and wind data for sites across the Latitudinal Gradient.  Holly presented some of her findings at the International Permafrost Association conference in Salekhard, Russin in June 2012.


Drilling to establish permafrost temperature monitoring in the Wright Valley Victoria Valley soil climate monitoring station


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