Members of the New Zealand group are currently undertaking a number of research projects in the Ross Sea sector of Antarctica. There is little active periglacial/permafrost research currently being undertaken in New Zealand itself although a number of relevant projects have recently been completed. In Antarctica Warren Dickinson (Victoria University of Wellington) has an ongoing programme of drilling permafrost in the Dry Valleys area using ground ice to improve our understanding of paleoclimate and landscape history.
Ground ice in the Sirius group tillite has been sampled from cores up to 9.5 m deep at Table Mtn. Stable isotopic data suggests that the ground ice accumulated from a combination of: (1) moisture diffusion from the surface and (2) brine seeping downward from the surface along thin films. Further research will involve validation of this model using ground ice from cores taken across a transect on surfaces of differing ages and elevations. Temperature probes will be deployed into the core holes to determine the stability of the ground ice and will record temperatures and relative humidity through the winter. Peter Sheppard (IGNS), Megan Balks (University of Waikato), Jack Alasbie (Landcare) and Ron Paetzold (USDA) are continuing work on the effects of hydro- carbon spills on Antarctic soil ecosystems. It has been demonstrated that the right organisms are present to degrade fuel and oil spills in Antarctic soils, but they achieve it at a much lower rate than observed elsewhere. The reasons for this contrast are being examined as is how these properties affect the functioning of the ecosystem. The main objective of the 1999/2000 season is to undertake maintenance and download data from a number of climate monitoring sites and to install temperature and moisture monitoring equipment at sites with oil contamination. Preliminary work will be undertaken to install equipment for a controlled spillage trial that is to be undertaken during the 2000/2001 summer. Iain Campbell, Doug Sheppard, Megan Balks are involved with John Kimble and Ron Paetzold (USDA) in a project involving active layer/permafrost investigation at two locations in the McMurdo Sound region. Temperature probes have been inserted as well as humidity and moisture recorders in the active layer and non-ice cemented permafrost. At the coastal sites, ice-cemented permafrost was present at 35 and 65 cm respectively, whilst the inland Dry Valley site provided a contrast with no ice-cement present and dry permafrost present below 40 cm. It is intended that they will become permanent permafrost monitoring sites and that the range of sites can be extended. Peter Sheppard is also involved in a project with Iain Campbell, Graeme Claridge and Ian Graham (IGNS) in which the sources of salts in ancient Antarctic Dry Valley soils and their stored climatic record are being investigated. Understanding of the sources of the salts, how to differentiate these sources, and the controls on intra-soil processes is needed if the climatic history is to be elucidated. Paul Augustinus, Matt Watson, Scott Nichol (University of Auckland) and Ed Butler (Victoria University of Wellington) undertook ground penetrating radar surveys of raised beaches in the McMurdo Sound region. The subsurface imaging clearly displayed the subsurface stratigraphy and depth to bedrock at many sites, as well as indicating the depth to the active layer and discrimination between dry and ice permafrost. This work is being extended to other raised beaches along the Ross Sea coast over the 1999/2000 summer season.
In New Zealand, Alan Mark (University of Otago) is collaborating with Peter Kershaw (University of Alberta) on vegetation- environmental relationships in the alpine zone of Rock and Pillar Range, Central Otago, N.Z. There will be a conference of the Australia-New Zealand Geomorphology Group, in Wanaka, in the central South Island of New Zealand, and at the foothills of the Southern Alps and close to some of New Zealand’s best periglacial landscapes. Details of the conference have not yet been announced, but it is to follow the conference of the New Zealand Soil Science Society and is to run from Dec 6 to 10, 2000.
Professor Michael Crozier, School of Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington is the organiser and contact person for details of the meeting: firstname.lastname@example.org. Paul Augustinus (email@example.com)