2016-2017 Science Planning Summaries
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2016-2017 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

EAGER: Single-molecule sequencing of Antarctic paleolakes

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Event Number:

Program Manager:
Dr. Thomas Wilch

ASC POC/Implementer:
Jenny Cunningham / Meghan Walker

Principal Investigator

Dr. Sarah S Johnson

Washington, District of Columbia


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: Lake Vida / Mount Boreas / Pyramid Trough


Despite recent advances, we still know little about how life and its traces persist in extremely harsh conditions. What survival strategies do cells employ when pushed to their limit? During this field season, researchers will sample paleolake facies using sterile techniques from multiple Dry Valleys sites and extract DNA from entombed organic material. Genetic material will then be sequenced using Pacific Biosciences’ Single Molecule, Real-Time DNA sequencing technology, which sequences native DNA as opposed to amplified DNA, thereby eliminating PCR primer bias, and enables read lengths that have never before been possible. The data will be analyzed with a range of bioinformatic techniques, with results that will likely impact our understanding of cell biology, Antarctic microbiology and biogeography, biotechnology, and planetary science.

Field Season Overview

Field team members will make day trips by helicopter from station to various sites in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. They will travel on foot and collect microbial mat, geologic, and sediment samples from lake edges and from nearby upslope deposits. They will use small spades, hand shovels, and sterile spatulas to collect small samples and deposit them in Whirl-Paks, vials, or bottles. The samples will be immediately placed on ice or in a cryoshipper. They will also collect some lake water samples. They will process samples and perform some extractions to assess DNA quality and do preliminary sequencing analyses in the Crary Lab but the majority of their samples will be prepared for shipment to the home institution for further analyses.

Deploying Team Members

  • Yu Bai
  • David Goerlitz
  • Sarah Johnson (PI)
  • Scott Tighe