2013-2014 Science Planning Summaries
U.S. Antarctic Program - Science Support Section United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo
 
MIDGE: Minimally Invasive Direct Glacial Exploration of biogeochemistry, hydrology, and glaciology of Blood Falls, McMurdo Dry Valleys
 

Program Manager:
Dr. Lisa Clough

Event Number: C-528-M
NSF/PLR Award 1144178

ASC POC/Implementer:
Sune Tamm / Jessica Jenkins

Dr. Jill Mikucki (Principal Investigator)
jmikucki@utk.edu

University of Tennessee
Microbiology
Knoxville, Tennessee

Supporting Stations:  McMurdo Station
Research Locations:  Blood Falls / Lakes Fryxell and Hoare

Project Description:
This collaborative project will integrate geophysical measurements, molecular microbial ecology, and geochemical analyses to explore a subglacial system known as Blood Falls. Blood Falls is a hypersaline, subglacial brine supporting an active microbial community. The subglacial brine is released from a crevasse at the Taylor Glacier’s surface, providing an access point into an Antarctic subglacial ecosystem. Recent geochemical and molecular analyses support a marine source for the salts and microorganisms in Blood Falls. The last time marine waters inundated this part of the McMurdo Dry Valleys was during the Late Tertiary, suggesting the brine is ancient. No direct samples have been collected from the subglacial source to Blood Falls, so little is known about the brine’s origin or how long it has been sealed below Taylor Glacier. It remains unclear what triggers episodic releases of brine exclusively at the Blood Falls crevasse or the extent to which brine is altered as it rises to the surface. MIDGE aims to determine the brine release mechanism at Blood Falls, evaluate changes in the geochemistry and the microbial community within the englacial conduit, and assess if Blood Falls waters have a distinct impact on Taylor Glacier thermal and stress state.

Field Season Overview:
A total of 12 participants will deploy by helicopter from McMurdo Station to the Dry Valleys. The team will be divided into a geophysics team and a MIDGE testing team. The MIDGE team will camp at Lake Hoare and will make daily hikes to Canada Glacier to conduct tests of the MIDGE probe. The team will also make day-trips to Blood Falls for sampling, and some of them will stay on at Blood Falls to conduct a survey of the Blood Falls crack.

Deploying Team Members:

  • Jessica Badgeley
  • Christina Carr
  • Michelle Chua
  • Bernd Dachwald
  • Clemens Espe
  • Marco Feldmann
  • Gero Francke
  • Jill Mikucki (PI)
  • Erin Pettit (Co-PI)

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Curator: Esther L. Hill PhD, Antarctic Support Contract   |   NSF Official: Alexandra Isern, Division of Polar Programs