To keep Antarctica as pristine as possible all impacts from human presence have to be kept to an absolute minimum, this includes human wastes. The field camp has an out-doors toilet that consists of a 'poo bucket' with a polystyrene lid and a 'pee barrel' which has a funnel on top. When the scientists leave the field they take all their wastes with them so that they do not contaminate the environment.
Points of interest for teachers:
- Students could consider what the effects on the Antarctic environment would be if a toilet was not used or wastes were dumped in Antarctica?
- Why do the scientists use a polystyrene seat?
DR MEGAN BALKS
There’s a real enthusiasm for protecting the Antarctic environment – it’s a pristine environment and nobody wants to see evidence of other people having been there before. Also human waste is nutrients and nutrients if they get into the environment are getting into the streams, into the soil eco-systems which affect the organisms that are there. In times past people just treated it like going tramping in New Zealand, but not anymore. When we’re in the field in Antarctica everything that is brought in has to be taken out and all human waste has to be too. So our toilet waste all have to be contained and we have a toilet set up which comprises a big bucket, which we call our poo bucket and a barrel which is our pee barrel. The barrel has a funnel on the top and the poo bucket has a seat made of polystyrene because if you think about some sort of plastics when they’re cold you wouldn’t want to sit on them. We always put them a wee way from our tent just to kind of be somewhat civilised and try and put them downwind of a big boulder to get some shelter.