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Dadeville Kiwanis Club learns about Antarctic issues - The Alexander City Outlook


The Dadeville Kiwanis Club welcomed Dr. James McClintock, a professor of polar and marine biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham to their weekly meeting on Thursday afternoon.

McClintock, who has been studying the environment on the continent of Antarctica for over 30 years, explained some of the major changes he and his colleagues have noticed during their time at a research station on the Antarctic Peninsula.

“The Antarctic has been warming,” McClintock said. “87 percent of glaciers across the continent have been receding. Ice shelves are breaking off, which means higher sea levels.”

With major changes like this occurring across the Antarctic Peninsula, the animals calling the southern continent home have been dealing with serious issues to the way of life they have been used to for centuries.

With snow falling during a season not traditionally seen, the eggs laid by the Adelie Penguin have been buried under the snow, and subsequently drowned when the snow melts later on. The loss of sea ice has meant a decrease in the amount of krill, a small shrimp that is food for virtually every creature living in the Antarctic.

Furthermore, animals not commonly seen in the ocean surrounding Antarctica have made their presence felt as the water warms, the most noticeable of these being the king crab.

Looking at the question of why the general public should care about this, McClintock explained how the area, one of the richest and most diverse zones of marine life on the planet, can be beneficial to humans.

For example, he and some of his fellow researchers discovered a chemical compound produced by some of the undersea creatures that, when tested at the National Cancer Institute, was found to fight melanoma. Another compound which is produced by sponges, acts against the MRSA infection, a type of staph infection highly resistant to traditional antibiotics.

“There are millions of years of evolution down there. We don’t want to squander it,” McClintock said.

Finding a way to end his presentation on a relatively bright note, he mentioned how the Montreal Protocol, which moved to stop the production and use of chlorofluorocarbons worldwide and was entered into force in 1989, has had a positive impact on the ozone hole noticed over the southern continent in the 1970s and 1980s. Since the Protocol’s ratification and enforcement, McClintock reported that the hole has stopped growing, and may no longer exist by the end of the 21st Century.

Antarctica may be a landmass thousands of miles from Lake Martin, but through the research presented by McClintock at Thursday’s meeting, he easily showed how protecting the environment here can have a positive impact there. With many discoveries left to be made under the ice, protecting the southern continent may lead to a finding that could positively impact us all.

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