The bizarre US government shutdown of the last few weeks has had a devastating impact in a range of areas, and has also had a very direct impact on our research group. After the first week of the shutdown, the US Antarctic program was directed to stop proceeding with the scheduled summer research season, and to start reverting to a winter-like “caretaker mode” for the stations. Scientists and support staff who had already arrived to start their work were flown back to New Zealand. Months of planning by the NSF, the support contractor and the scientists go into carefully orchestrating the complex Antarctic research season to maximize the science that can happen. All that planning was thrown out the window by the shutdown. We were told to sit tight and wait; all the science projects were kept in the dark about what would happen as the government reopens. Michael’s PhD project depends on the field season happening and, needless to say, he is quite upset by the situation. Avery (our undergraduate participant) had re-arranged her course schedule for the next 2 years to fit in this trip.
Now that the government is back to work, the NSF and the support contractor are scrambling to come up with a new plan to salvage as much of the research season as possible. As our planned departure date of Oct 31 nears, we still have not had any official word from the NSF, but have heard that some projects are getting cancelled. The amount of money and people’s effort wasted by this shutdown is staggering. We wait, hoping for the best.