2018-2019 Science Planning Summaries
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2018-2019 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Stochasticity and cryoconite community assembly and function

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B-320-M Research Location(s): Dry Valleys


Event Number:

Program Manager:
Dr. Christian Fritsen

ASC POC/Implementer:
Jenny Cunningham / Jennifer Blum

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. Steven K Schmidt
University of Colorado Boulder
Boulder, Colorado

Project Web Site:


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: 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

In this third and final season for the project, the primary goal will be to monitor and sample experimental cryoconite holes that were established on Canada glacier in the previous season. Because of exceptionally snowy conditions during the 2017-18 season, they may need to create additional experimental holes. The group will be primarily based at the Lake Hoare camp in order to monitor and clear snow from experimental holes, with up to three returns to Crary Laboratory for processing samples. There will also be a final sample processing stage at McMurdo Station after removing all experiments at the end of the season.

Deploying Team Members

  • Andrew Fountain (Co-PI)
  • Dorota Porazinska
  • Adam Solon
  • Pacifica Sommers