First-timers to the ice must complete “Happy Camper,” an obligatory two-day survival school for all visitors to the United States Antarctic Program.

Alia Khan, a graduate student at the University of Colorado, Boulder, writes regular blog posts for The New York Times Science page from the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica, where she is studying ephemeral glacier fed streams. As part of one of the long-term ecological research sites financed by the National Science Foundation, Alia is taking part in the study of ecology at extreme environmental limits. She is able to write blog posts, speak with relatives in the United States and stay in contact with field teams deployed in remote parts of the continent thanks to Iridium satellite phones.

The McMurdo Dry Valleys are a cold polar desert and together make up the largest ice-free area in Antarctica. Inspired by the stories of the first explorers of the Dry Valleys, who traversed the desolate region more than 100 years ago, Alia’s team is retracing a route documented in one of the original explorer’s field journal – an area known as Taylor Valley, named for Griffith Taylor, a scientist who lead one of the earliest expeditions. The team arrived in mid-October and will stay in the Dry Valleys through the end of January.

Check out Alia’s most recent New York Times blog post here.

And take a look back at some of her Antarctica observations from the last few weeks here.