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February 12, 2013

Area frog, SUNY professor return from Antarctic research

Freddy the Frog of Greater Plains Elementary School in Oneonta went with a local college professor on a research trip to Antarctica.

Freddy arrived safely back at school Monday with Devin Castendyk, associate professor at the State University College at Oneonta. On Monday afternoon at the school, Castendyk regaled pupils with tales about microscopic organisms living in frigid water, the movement of glaciers, encounters with penguins and details about his research project.

Castendyk recently returned from a two-month stint conducting research in Antarctica as part of the Stream Team of the McMurdo Dry Valleys Long Term Ecologic Research, funded by the National Science Foundation. While there, he corresponded with two classes at Greater Plains Elementary School, answering questions and posting photographs, many including Freddy, through his blog at

Freddy the Frog, a stuffed, bright green mascot for Adele Youngs’ third-grade class, has traveled the world with different people every year as part of the social studies curriculum.

“He was the perfect travel companion — never complained,’’ Castendyk, associate professor of water resources in the college’s earth and atmospheric sciences department, said.

Castendyk soon will travel to the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research at the University of Colorado, Boulder, to process research data between March and June.

At Greater Plains on Monday, Castendyk spoke to about 30 sixth-graders and 45 third-graders in two 45-minute sessions. His talks included elements of geography, history and humor along with details about the reasons and process behind the research project. Through maps, he showed his travel routes and data collection sites in Antarctica.

“This is a very, very special environment,” Castendyk told the pupils. “The Ross Sea — it’s kind of funny, they call it a sea, but it’s all covered in ice.”

Castendyk said his job was to measure the amount of water that was going into lakes. The glacial ice melts, he said, then forms streams, and the water runs into lakes. The data collected supports is used in studies of living organisms and climate change, he said.

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