Shutdown impacts UNF research

Shutdown closed several research stations in Antarctica

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Although the government is back open, the effects of it being shut down for two weeks are still being felt.

In fact, impact from the shutdown even reached the end of the earth, forcing the National Science Foundation, which is funded by the federal government, to close its three stations in Antarctica.

That was bad news for a local professor who was scheduled to participate in the research project of a lifetime.

As of Friday that's how it looked. There's a tiny glimmer of hope she could still deploy but chances are, this lifelong dream of Doctor Julie Richmond's had been canceled because of the government's temporary shutdown.

Dr. Julie Richmond is a Marine Mammal Biologist. Her research took her to places like Alaska and Russia to study Steller Sea Lions. For more than a year now, she's been preparing for a huge project.

She was supposed to leave for Antarctica in November to study Wedell Seals, but our government threw a wrench in her plans. 

"Its been a dream of mine to go since I was a little kid so it was very disheartening to find out that our government because of it being shut down a couple of weeks, its going to affect an entire year of data collection in the Antarctic that is what was really sad to me," said Assistant Professor of Biology at University of North Florida, Dr. Julie Richmond.

Richmond and six others were going down to sample Weddell Seals right after they give birth, put satellite tags on them and learn more about their life history strategies.

"We have a very short window of time in order to do this research because it is a annual pupping season so basically in November they give birth to a pup, it only happens once a year so we have this very narrow window of opportunity that we can get down there to do the research.

Richmond said congress's inability to agree has now put an entire research season in limbo for hundreds of projects that can only be done at certain times in Antarctica.

"I wasn't as sad for me but i was sad for science and what was going to happen to all of this phenomenal data that we've been collecting over the past 30 years and then having this gap, one year gap is really troubling," said Dr. Richmond.

Richmond was supposed to leave November 8th. She remains somewhat hopeful but the clock is ticking and the short research season only goes until February.

She said the very latest they could deploy is mid November but longstanding research projects will get priority to deploy when things re-open and the project she is part of is new. 

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