Online Expeditions: Dry Valleys Antarctica

Students will be introduced to the polar desert ecosystem of the Dry Valleys, Antarctica - as they learn about explore earth sciences, environmental sciences, and ecology.
Features of the Expedition
The National Science Foundation is sponsoring a Dry Valleys’ long-term ecological research project - or LTER.  The goal of the project is to study the components of a polar desert ecosystem and the interactions between them over long temporal and broad spatial scales.  Each year since 1987, scientists have gone to the Dry Valleys to investigate glaciers, streams, lakes, soils, rocks, and the valleys’ mainly microbial inhabitants.

Incorporated into this objective is an on-line educational project for schoolchildren, focusing on the environment and ecological  awareness.

This expedition covers the Dry Valleys of Antarctica. Around 98% of Antarctica is covered with ice.  The Dry Valleys region is the largest area on the continent that is not.  Located among mountains by McMurdo Sound, on the part of Antarctica closest to New Zealand, the valleys receive the equivalent of only 6 mm of water, on average, each year in the form of snow.  Completely devoid of terrestrial vegetation, the region is considered one of the most extreme deserts on the planet.
Time Line
The live portion of this  project will begin in November 2002 conclude in January 2003.
How to Participate
To register for this project, please e-mail us at and include the following information:
  • Your name
  • Name of your school or organization
  • Location of your school or organization
  • Grade level of your students
  • Number of students in your class

We’ll keep you posted via e-mail every time a report is posted. Or, you can visit our web site at:


John Gartner and Karen Cozzetto, two Ph.D. students at the University of Colorado-Boulder, are heading to Antarctica this November as the Dry Valleys’ “Stream Team.”  The Stream Team is responsible for repairing, maintaining, and collecting data from the gauges that measure stream flow and also for collecting water quality and algae samples from the streams.  The nature of the expedition precludes direct interaction with the explorers; however, students can track this adventure online, submit questions via email, and get great ideas for lesson plans.
Click here to visit Dry Valleys, Antarctica website

  Areas Covered

Helicopter view of the Dry Valleys
Helicopter view of the
Dry Valleys

Earth Sciences
Environmental Sciences
Evidence Tracking
Safety Precautions
Dry Vallyes - Ground level at midnight.
Ground level at midnight


John Gartner
Karen Cozzetto


Read their personal invitation to join the project

Dry Valleys - Sandstone algae

Sandstone algae

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