The United States Antarctica Program (USAP) is a program within the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Some people working at McMurdo are scientists (called “grantees”) who are here for anywhere from a few weeks to several months doing research. Most people here are contractors working for large companies that contract with the NSF to provide short-term support and make all the incredible scientific research possible.
There are food service folks, janitors (“janos”), tradespeople, field support staff, IT folks, and administrators, among others.
I work for a large multinational contracting company called Pacific Architects and Engineers, although it’s usually just known as PAE. I am working for PAE from mid October to late February as a Communications Operator. I work in the Operations Center, an office shared with MacCenter (they do air traffic control), MacWeather (weather forecasters and observers), and several small branches of the Air Force that handle polar science support.
I am one of five people working in the Operations Center. My co-comms operators are Josh, Rebecca, and Margot, and our supervisor is Shelly. Collectively, we are “The Voice of Antarctica.”
Communications Operators use phones, HF, and VHF radio to communicate with camps off station, track small field parties going on day trips, and relay slight schedules, transfer calls, and pass messages between scientists and staff out in the field and at McMurdo. It’s a fun job and it’s satisfying to have a support role in scientific research.