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The reach of the government shutdown doesn’t end in Washington DC or even in the 50 states. It stretches all the way to the South Pole, forcing the National Science Foundation to cease operations at three stations in Antarctica and putting the brakes on a penguin study.
As the Associated Press reports, the NSF spends under $400 million a year operating the three stations and it takes weeks for the 1,200 researchers to get to them and they spend months on the continent.
“This is absurd, just absurd,” Alan Leshner, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, told the AP. “It's a very big logistical enterprise and this could jeopardize the entire research season for hundreds of important projects.”
Ross Powell, a geologist at Northern Illinois University, had planned to go to Antarctica for the first ever drilling expedition to look at live in an underground lake. But he likely won’t be able to do that as many researchers fear that the shutdown could continue past the summer research season, which began Thursday, notes Live Science.
“It makes the blood boil,” Powell told Live Science, adding that they could lose half of the money NSF had invested in the project.
One of the other projects affected is a study that has tracked penguins every year since 1990. “If we miss a year, we'll never get it back again,” Brown University doctoral student Catherine Luria told the AP. “It's pretty devastating for our project.”
The NSF said that during the shutdown, there “a small number of ‘excepted’ employees who will remain on the job expressly to ensure the safety of personnel and property in the Polar Regions.”