Environmental History of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica

Overview: Integrating Science and Society

In 1903, Captain Scott and his two companions became the first humans ever to see the McMurdo Dry Valleys in East Antarctica. Since then, relatively few people have ever visited the region, and the majority of these visitors have been involved in scientific activity. This project uses environmental history to examine the interactions between human activity, scientific research, and environmental change in this unique region over the past 100 years. In much the same way as the simplicity of the MDV ecosystems makes the area an ideal location for formulating ecological theory, the reductionism of the area's human history - in terms of its short time frame and the small number of people involved - makes it an excellent location for integrating the theory and practice of environmental history with the ecological research of the LTER network. It is arguably easier, for example, to trace historical interconnections between science, policy, and environmental change in the MDV than at other sites with more complex human-environment coupling. The first stage of this project has involved research into the earlier human history of this region. Future research will continue to trace the history of the Dry Valleys up to the present through archival research and oral history interviews, with a particular focus on the interaction between environmental change and scientific developments over time.