Hurricane damages UNCW student’s research, forced to travel to Antarctica to redo work

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) —  After losing nearly a month of instructional time due to damage from Hurricane Florence, some UNCW students face even more setbacks.

When Florence slammed Dobo Hall on UNCW’s campus, it wasn’t just Sheetrock and equipment that must be replaced. Scientific specimens from Antarctica that had to be kept at a certain temperature were destroyed.

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“It was mild panic, because there was nothing I could really do since I did evacuate,” said PhD student Katie Reed.

Last year, Reed and her professor Dr. Joseph Covi went to Antarctica to collect zooplankton samples. Reed is studying how they are able to remain dormant for hundreds of years as eggs and embryos.

“We had an environmental chamber kept at Antarctic temperatures in Dobo, and they were unfortunately lost during the hurricane,” said Reed.

Now in order to continue her research and graduate, Reed must travel back to Antarctica with Covi.

“A return to Antarctica isn’t a simple thing,” said Covi. “So thankfully, the organization that was funding us, KOPRI, the Korea Polar Research Institute, has agreed to take us out for another expedition.”

In order to collect the samples, Reed and Covi must hike up to 10 miles a day carrying a 100 lb boat and 40 lb backpacks over very rough terrain.

“We’re going to be going back to some of the same lakes, and using the same sampling techniques,” said Covi.

Reed says she is unable to take classes this semester because of the amount of time she will be in Antarctica, which could delay her graduation by a semester or two.

But instead of viewing it as a setback, she’s looking forward to going back to Antarctica.

“Hopefully this time, now that we know what we’re doing, and the process for it, we can maybe set some time aside for a little bit more exploration,” said Reed.

Reed says another problem is the freezer they use to keep the samples at such a low temperature was also destroyed in the hurricane, and they are having trouble finding another one.

Reed and Covi leave for Antarctica February 12, and will return in late March.