2017-2018 Science Planning Summaries
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2017-2018 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Stochasticity and cryoconite community assembly and function

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Event Number:

Program Manager:
Dr. Christian Fritsen

ASC POC/Implementer:
Jenny Cunningham / Jennifer Blum

Principal Investigator

Dr. Steven K Schmidt

University of Colorado Boulder
Boulder, Colorado

Project Web Site:


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: McMurdo Dry Valleys


Cryoconite is a combination of dust and microbial material that can absorb solar radiation and cause localized melting when deposited on glacial surfaces. These melt areas, called cryoconite holes, become hosts to ice-bound microbe communities. Low temperatures in the Dry Valleys cause ice lids to form over the holes and entomb the communities. These lids can persist for decades. The holes melt internally each summer, and during very warm summers the ice lid can melt enough to create an open ecosystem that allows transfer of biological material and potential reorganization of the community. Through field sampling and creation of experimental cryoconite holes, researchers will investigate how the stochastic processes that guide microbial community assembly will affect patterns in biodiversity and ecosystem processes in the Dry Valleys.

Field Season Overview

This is the second of three seasons for this Dry Valleys project; they will again be based out of Lake Hoare fixed camp in the Taylor Valley. The field team will consist of six participants including a journalist to facilitate project outreach. Their work will continue on Canada glacier, accessed on foot from Lake Hoare. They will assemble cryoconite holes using the best method determined in season one, and monitor and sample the holes as they develop through the season. While not in the field, the team will work in Crary laboratory processing samples. Helicopter support is required for camp put-ins and pull-outs. Field Safety Coordinator support will be provided for a few days at the start of their field season.

Deploying Team Members

  • Michael Kodas
  • Dorota Porazinska
  • Steven Schmidt (PI)
  • Pacifica Sommers
  • Felix Zamora