2022-2023 Science Planning Summary
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2022-2023 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

McMurdo LTER – Limnology: Ecosystem response to amplified landscape connectivity in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica

Photo by John Priscu. Image courtesy of NSF/USAP Photo Library. Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
C-505-M Research Location(s): Dry Valleys


Event Number:

Program Director:
Dr. Maria Vernet

ASC POC/Implementer:
Ryan Steiner / Jenny Cunningham

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. John Priscu
Polar Oceans Research Group

Project Web Site:


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: Dry Valleys


The McMurdo Dry Valleys Long-Term Ecological Research (MCM-LTER) Program is an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary study of the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in an ice-free region of Antarctica. The MCM-LTER has studied Dry Valleys ecosystems since 1993, and observed their responses to climate variations over time. Landscape connectivity, such as streams connecting glaciers to lakes, and lake level rise connecting upland soils, is recognized to be influenced by climate and geological drivers. Researchers hypothesize that increased ecological connectivity within the Dry Valleys will amplify exchange of biota, energy, and matter, homogenizing ecosystem structure and functioning. Researchers will test this hypothesis through continued monitoring and experiments over six field seasons. Specifically, researchers are examining how climate variation alters connectivity among landscape units and how biota (species, populations, and communities) are connected across this heterogeneous landscape, using state-of-the-science tools and methods, including ongoing and expanded automated sensor networks, analysis of seasonal satellite imagery, biogeochemical analyses, and next-generation sequencing. Participants will collect samples to study nitrification and denitrification genes in Dry Valley organisms, and will collect water and soil to investigate carbon flow through the ecosystem.

Field Season Overview

The C-505 LTER team focuses on limnology in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. A seven-person research team will travel to and from Dry Valleys study sites via helicopter, and will rotate through various Taylor Valley field camps with a final stay at Lake Hoare. They will work from Polarhaven tents built on Lakes Fryxell, Bonney, and Hoare and will drill and melt holes in lake ice both under and near these structures to access the water. Between field rotations, the team will be based in Crary Laboratory. Field activities will include collecting lake water from various depths to create a profile of the lakes' basic chemical and physical parameters, and managing sediment traps deployed on the lakes. They will use radioisotopes at field sites, at the fixed camps, and in Crary Lab. Additional water will be collected for a denitrification study. These experiments will assess the productivity of various lake, soil, and algae samples at multiple temperatures.

Deploying Team Members

  • Andrew Babbin
  • Anna Galipeau
  • Jade Lawrence (Team Leader)
  • John Priscu (PI)
  • Emily Reynebeau
  • Cristina Takacs-Vesbach
  • Lija Treibergs