2012-2013 Science Planning Summaries
U.S. Antarctic Program - Science Support Section United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo
Collaborative research: Microbially mediated alteration of volcanic glass using McMurdo extreme environments as natural laboratories

Program Manager:
Dr. Alexandra Isern


ASC POC/Implementer:
John Rand / Jessica Jenkins

Dr. Hubert Staudigel (Principal Investigator)
http://earthref.org/ERESE/projects/GOLF439/2010/External Non U.S. Government Site

Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Institute for Geophysics and Planetary Physics
La Jolla, California

Supporting Stations:  McMurdo Station
Research Locations:  Cape Evans, Mount Erebus, Pyramid Trough, Taylor Valley, Tramway Ridge, Turtle Rock

Project Description:
Antarctica is a very harsh continent with very little life. Food webs have to be very “creative” to adjust to conditions that have been compared to life on other planets or during the early Earth. This project will use these special conditions to explore which microbes are the most successful at using nutrients and energy from volcanic rocks. The goal is to improve understanding of microbes at the bottom of the food chain: How can microbes make organic carbon by using inorganic components? Which microbes are the main players in utilizing chemical energy and nutrients from rocks and soils that are very poor in organic matter? Experiments will focus on the Extreme Environments of the McMurdo area around Ross Island, Antarctica. These will include some (ancient) lava flows and lakes in the Dry Valleys, the Royal Society Range, and on Mount Erebus.

Field Season Overview:
Participants will deploy early in the season and start by recovering experiments and environmental samples deployed in previous years. Then, when weather allows, they will travel to Mount Erebus where they will share logistics with Phil Kyle’s project (G-081) to enter the caves and establish key sampling sites. After the sites are established, each group will conduct their own sampling activities. From there, this group will move on to Lake Fryxell to recover moorings and collect water samples using CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) sensors and Niskin bottles. When rivers start flowing they will sample their “reference” creek in upper Taylor Valley (near Sollas) and Walcott. Depending on the progress of melting the field team may stop and sample from either one of the rivers on the flights back to McMurdo. If rivers don't flow at that time, the field team will make a separate trip, likely feasible in January. If logistics allow, they will spend four to eight hours collecting wet basalt ground samples on Black Island by "hitching a ride" with supply runs to the repeater station. In addition to these field-based activities, the group will process recovered samples in Crary Lab.

Deploying Team Members:

  • Laurie Connell (Co-PI)
  • Anthony Rigoni
  • Hubert Staudigel (PI)
  • Bradley Tebo (Co-PI)

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