Antarctic Research and the Colorado Front Range: a Celebration of the International Polar Year

Every year, a number of residents from Fort Collins go to Antarctica to study the biology, climate and geology of the Earth’s coldest climate. While the continent is mostly remote from human presence, the processes the residents study have a measurable impact on our day-to-day lives.

A number of local Antarctic scientists are addressing this research by sponsoring a lecture series at the Fort Collins Main Public Library to address the following question: What can be learned from research in Antarctica, and how do people withstand the rigors of the continent?

The age of geographic exploration has given way to scientific investigation. This investigation will be highlighted by the International Council for Science’s designation of 2007-08 as the International Polar Year. This designation is aimed at raising awareness about the major changes underway in the biological and physical environment at the two poles. With a concerted effort of research and education focused on the general public, the organizers of the International Polar Year hope to raise understanding of the polar regions at all levels.

Colorado State University ecologist Diana Wall, a 16-year veteran of research in Antarctica and co-organizer of the lecture series, said she is amazed at how many people she encounters who have a keen interest in Antarctica because they know someone who has been there as a scientist or on support staff.

"We are happy to have the opportunity to meet fellow Fort Collins residents interested in the polar region at the bottom of the world and give them updates about our time there," Wall said.

The lecture series is designed to mark the International Polar Year with evenings filled with stories of the final terrestrial frontier. Each lecture will feature a scientist from the Front Range who has based much of his or her career on research in Antarctica.

All lectures start at 6:30 p.m. and will be held in the Fort Collins Main Public Library. The series schedule follows.

– Feb. 8: "Exercising While Holding their Breath: The Physiology of Seals," presented by Shane Kanatous from Colorado State University.

– Feb 20: "IGY to IPY: 50 Years of Science on the Ice," presented by John Behrendt from the University of Colorado.

– March 20: "Ancient Climates, Fauna, and Flora of Antarctica 200 to 300 Million Years Ago," presented by Jim Collinson, retired faculty member from Ohio State University.

– April 17: "The Hot Scoop on Cold Soils: The Dry Valleys of Antarctica," presented by Diana Wall from Colorado State University.

– May 15: "Glacial Streams in Antarctica: Ecosystems Waiting for Water," presented by Diane McKnight from the University of Colorado.

For more information about the International Polar Year, visit