University of Tennessee
Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: Blood Falls / Lakes Fryxell and Hoare
This collaborative project will integrate geophysical measurements, molecular microbial ecology and geochemical analyses to explore a unique Antarctic subglacial system known as Blood Falls. Blood Falls is a hypersaline, subglacial brine that supports an active microbial community. The subglacial brine is released from a crevasse at the surface of the Taylor Glacier providing an accessible portal 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, which suggests the brine is ancient. Still, no direct samples have been collected from the subglacial source to Blood Falls, and little is known about the origin of this brine or the amount of time it has been sealed below Taylor Glacier. It remains unclear what triggers the episodic release of brine exclusively at the Blood Falls crevasse or the extent to which the brine is altered as it makes its way to the surface. MIDGE aims to determine the mechanism of brine release 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 the 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:
Jill Mikucki (PI)
Erin Pettit (Co-PI)
Slawomir Tulaczyk (Co-PI)