Similarly, Jacqueline Grebmeier, a research professor at the University of Maryland, said cancellation of planned events like October's meeting of the Polar Research Board in Washington, D.C., will prevent a lot of scientists from around the world from doing important legwork with other scientists and government officials for next year's research season.
Kansas high schoolers also miss out
Established Antarctic research projects are not the only ones hard hit by the shutdown. Hundreds of Kansas high school students scheduled to participate in an educational project on Antarctica may also lose out.
The program is part of a National Science Foundation grant awarded to Rutgers University researcher Grace Saba, who studies plankton in Antarctica.
Saba, who is from Kansas, had paired her Antarctic field work, which was scheduled to start this year, with a yearlong Antarctic science educational project involving several Kansas high schools and hundreds of students.
The effort, called Project PARKA, aims to connect landlocked Kansas students with ocean science, Saba explained. She and Kristin Hunter-Thompson, who works in the 4-H Youth Development Department at Rutgers, had trained several science teachers in Antarctic science over the summer.
This fall, the students were to conduct a series of lessons and experiments that taught them about Antarctica. Then, when Saba was in Antarctica, she was going to make live calls to the students, and they would discuss her research.
At the end of the year, the students and Saba would have a science symposium, where they would present data and results.
"I had materials to ship to the teachers. They are sitting in my office. They can't get shipped out," Hunter-Thompson said.
The teachers involved in the project said they were still moving forward with lessons about Antarctica but were disappointed that the shutdown might curtail the most engaging part of the curriculum.
"We have spent much time in preparation for the events in Antarctica this winter. Unfortunately, I will have to explain how a government shutdown has now affected their education," said Frances Wecker, who teaches science at Emporia High School in Emporia, Kan.
Stacie Borjon, a biology teacher at Shawnee Heights High School in Tecumseh, Kan., was excited to offer her students an opportunity to interact with a scientist in the field.
"Students often have a perception of a scientist as a man working by himself in a lab. With Project PARKA, students get to see not only collaboration between scientists, but Grace Saba is a role model for young women as well," Borjon said.
As of Tuesday, Saba had already shipped her lab equipment south, for what she thought would be the first of two seasons studying the impacts of ocean acidification on krill, an important food source for penguins and marine mammals in Antarctica.
Now, in addition to her concerns about Project PARKA, Saba doesn't know whether she'll be able to conduct her research or if her field seasons will simply get pushed back a year.
"This is my first funded research grant, and I'm super bummed," she said.
Outside research continues
Judith Gan, who directs the NSF's legislative and external affairs, said that she did not have access to data on how many research projects are being affected but that the NSF hopes to allow research in Antarctica to continue once Congress passes a budget.
"As we move to caretaker status, we are also developing plans to recover as much of the austral research season as possible, and this is highly dependent on the timing of an appropriation," she said.
Antarctic researchers who work outside the U.S. system will be able to go ahead with their season and climate research.