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Government shutdown threatens annual Antarctic research just as it's heating up

Government shutdown threatens annual Antarctic research just as it's heating up

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The United States' Antarctic research expeditions are being put on ice as funding dries up during the government shutdown. The National Science Foundation announced today that it's beginning to suspend work at all three of its major Antarctic research stations. Only a small staff will remain at each station in order to perform upkeep, while all other work will be halted. The agency says that its funding will run out on or around October 14th, at which point it will begin fully implementing the suspension of research services.

"Some activities cannot be restarted."

The lapse in funding comes at one of the worst times for Antarctic researchers. According to Nature, the stations' primary research season is between October and February, when the continent is warmest. The National Science Foundation acknowledges that a lot of work is on the line because of the shutdown. "Some activities cannot be restarted once seasonally dependent windows for research and operations have passed," the agency writes. Nature notes that it could pose major issues for researchers who have been taking measurements annually, such as those monitoring animal populations.

While the National Science Foundation says that it will attempt to restore research to "the maximum extent possible" once funding returns, it'll be increasingly difficult to do as workers leave and time passes. Science and research as a whole have been taking a hit from the government shutdown, but few projects have clocks ticking quite in the way that the US Antarctic Program does as the season wears on.