Field Samples: Exploring Antarctic Lakes

Welcome to our new recurring blog feature – Field Samples. We’ve got so much cool research going on at the Center for Limnology, that it’s hard to keep track. So, each week, we’ll do a Q&A with a faculty member, post doc or grad student and see what they’ve been up to, where it’s taken them, and what they’ve learned. New CFL post doc, Hilary Dugan, is leading off – answering a few questions about her work in Antarctica.
Who are you, where are you from, and how did you get here?

Hilary Dugan.
Hilary Dugan.

I’m Hilary Dugan, a postdoc at the CFL. I came to Madison via Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario and the University of Illinois at Chicago. 
Pretend we just boarded an elevator and you only have one-minute to tell me what you’ve been working on….3,2,1 go!
Basically, I’m interested in talking about why limnologists should be interested in Antarctic lakes. Lakes in polar environments push the boundaries of how aquatic systems function and force us to think differently about ecosystem processes. Standard limnological theories/methods don’t always apply to permanently frozen lakes!
What question did your fieldwork answer or did do you hope to answer? What other questions might your work lead scientists to ask?
In Antarctica, scientists have to drill a long, long way before hitting water.
In Antarctica, scientists have to drill a long, long way before hitting water.

Our research group hoped to prove the existence of subsurface liquid water in the sediments beneath lakes in an environment dominated by continuous permafrost. Think ‘Aquifers in Antarctica’. 
Not to sound harsh, but why should someone not in the field of freshwater sciences care about your work?
Freshwater lakes have ice too! But in Wisconsin (for instance) it’s difficult to measure under-ice processes because the ice is dynamic. In polar lakes, the ice is much more stable and provides a safer platform for conducting long-term research. It is hoped that theories developed in polar lakes can be applied to temperate lakes during the winter. 
What do you love about your work? What do you, well, not love?
Lake camp, AntarcticaWhy do I love fieldwork in Antarctica? Because it never rains.
But seriously, there are few places on Earth where you can research such pristine environments. We’re lucky that we can study aquatic systems that are not influenced by contaminants or invasive species. 

On the flip side, I do wish I could go for a swim once in a while.
Tell me about one funny, memorable, exciting or awesome moment from your work either in the field or in the lab.
Once, when we came back to our camp from a day on the lake, we found a large cardboard box sitting by the front of our cabin. When we opened it, we found apples, oranges, root vegetables, and a giant bag of mixed greens. It was better than Christmas! One could become a rich person selling vegetables in Antarctica. 
Where do you hope to go from here?
I came to the CFL to work with lake and watershed hydrologic models. Down the road, I hope I can apply the skills I learn here back in polar environments.