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
CAREER: Protist diversity and function in the Dry Valley lakes

Program Manager:
Dr. Charles Amsler


ASC POC/Implementer:
Elizabeth Watson / Cara Sucher

Dr. Rachael Morgan-Kiss (Principal Investigator)

Miami University
Oxford, Ohio

Supporting Stations:  McMurdo Station
Research Locations:  Dry Valleys / Lakes Bonney and Fryxell

Project Description:
Protists play important roles in energy flow and material cycling and act as primary producers (fixing inorganic carbon by photosynthesis) and consumers (preying on bacteria by phagotrophic digestion). The McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV) located in Victoria Land, Antarctica, harbor microbial communities that are isolated in the unique aquatic ecosystem of perennially ice-capped lakes. The lakes support exclusively microbial consortia in chemically stratified water columns that are not influenced by seasonal mixing, allochthonous inputs, or direct human impact. The objectives of this project are to understand the metabolic versatility of single-celled eukaryotic microbial (protist) species residing in MDV lakes and to link protist trophic strategy with specific abiotic drivers, e.g., temperature, light, and nutrients. Specific objectives for this field season are: (1) Generate depth profiles of autotrophic and heterotrophic activity across select MDV lakes; (2) Identify taxonomic affiliation of mixotrophic protists at depths of mixed trophic activity; (3) Cultivate new photoautotrophic and mixotrophic protists from MDV lakes.

Field Season Overview:
Three participants will collect lake samples from Lakes Bonney (east and west lobes), Fryxell and Vanda at various depths through the water column during the summer season. They will be based at Lakes Bonney and Fryxell established camps and use labs there for sample processing. While at Lake Bonney, researchers will make one day trip to Lake Vanda to collect lake water. Helicopters will provide support for put-in, take-out, camp moves and returning samples to McMurdo.

Deploying Team Members:

  • Jenna Dolhi
  • Wei Li
  • Rachael Morgan-Kiss (PI)
  • Amber Siebenaler

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