A wide variety of scientific research is currently conducted in the Dry Valleys.


The McMurdo Dry Valleys are of great scientific importance with features including:
  • unique ecosystems of low biodiversity and reduced food web complexity
  • diverse habitats compared with other ice free areas in the Antarctic
  • unusual microhabitats and biological communities (such as endolithic and Cryoconite systems)
  • species adapted to extreme environments (‘end members of ecological continua’)
  • special geological features and minerals (e.g. salt deposits, desert pavements and sand dunes)
  • marine fjord sediments containing records of planetary change
  • long running data series (e.g. stream flows and climate)
  • indicators of past and present regional climate change

A wide variety of scientific research is currently conducted in the Dry Valleys, primarily by the United States, New Zealand and Italian Antarctic programmes. An interdisciplinary study of the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems called the Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) project has been running in the region since 1992. Details of current science activities can be accessed in the directory.

Image: Collecting invertebrates, springtails and mites, from the under- side of small stones in the Miers Valley in the Dry Valleys © Jane Ussher, Antarctica NZ Pictorial Collection: K245 08/09

Snowy Rock

Wright Glacier and Labyrinth, from Mount Thor. © Andris Apse, Antarctica NZ Pictorial Collection: K211 07/08