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
Astrobiology science and technology for exploring planets (ASTEP)

Program Manager:
Dr. Lisa Clough


ASC POC/Implementer:
Brian Johnson / Leslie Blank

Dr. Britney Elyce Schmidt (Principal Investigator)
http://schmidt.eas.gatech.edu/simple/External Non U.S. Government Site

Georgia Institute of Technology
Earth & Atmospheric Sciences
Atlanta, Georgia

Supporting Stations:  McMurdo Station
Research Locations:  McMurdo Ice Shelf

Project Description:
This project, the Sub-ice Investigation of Marine and PLanetary-analog Ecosystems (SIMPLE), addresses the need to understand the extent and limitations of life in sub-ice environments. Researchers will seek to accomplish this objective by determining the distribution of any active biological communities under the McMurdo Ice Shelf as well as the fundamental ice and ocean properties that make such communities viable. SIMPLE will focus on critical observations of the Earth’s sub-shelf ecosystems and the ice processes upon which they rely as analogs for active geology and habitable zones on Jupiter's moon, Europa.

Field Season Overview:
The overarching goal of the proposed work is to provide an evolutionary understanding of how marine benthic organisms (including their larvae) are genetically structured and physically distributed in the Western Antarctic. This information will have direct implications for understanding past and future range shifts of organisms. In particular, we will examine larval distributions and assess if distributions are consistent with patterns of genetic connectivity within Antarctic waters. To this end, we will employ an integrative approach that focuses on the genetic signatures of historical gene flow or isolation.

These data will be examined in light of known processes in Antarctic waters that potentially influence advection of larvae around Antarctica. Hypothesis: Herein, our objectives are designed to test a major, but poorly explored, assumption about Antarctic biology: Ho = Antarctic species of benthic invertebrates have sufficient gene flow to maintain broad, possibly circumpolar, panmictic distributions.

Using this generalized null hypothesis and by examining multiple species with different life histories, we have begun to build a more holistic view of the factors controlling Southern Ocean biodiversity, biogeography and evolutionary history.

Deploying Team Members:

  • Britney Schmidt (PI)

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