2023-2024 Science Planning Summary
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2023-2024 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Mechanisms of adaptation to terrestrial Antarctica through comparative physiology and genomics of Antarctic and sub-Antarctic insects

Belgica antarctica. Photo by Mike Lucibella, courtesy of the NSF/USAP Photo Library.
B-046-L Research Location(s): Western Antarctic Peninsula


Event Number:
NSFGEO-NERC / OPP Award 1850988

Program Director:
Dr. Rebecca Gast

ASC POC/Implementer:
Kenneth Vicknair / Diane Hutt

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. Nicholas Mario Teets
University of Kentucky Lexington


Supporting Stations: ARSV Laurence M. Gould
Research Locations: Western Antarctic Peninsula


Antarctica is inhospitable for insects, and only three midge species live there. Of these, Belgica antarctica is the only species found exclusively in Antarctica. It has been difficult to pinpoint the evolutionary adaptations this insect needed to survive in Antarctica due to a lack of information about closely related species. This project will compare adaptations, genome sequences, and population characteristics of four midge species spanning an environmental gradient from sub-Antarctic to Antarctic habitats. Researchers from the U.S., U.K., Chile, and France, will sample insects from across their geographic range and measure their ability to tolerate environmental stressors, quantify molecular responses to stress, and compare their patterns of genetic diversity. This will contribute to a greater understanding of biodiversity and adaptation to extremes, and it will help in predicting the changes that accompany environmental change.

Field Season Overview

The science team proposes to conduct in-depth physiological, genomic, and population studies of three closely related midge species. They will collect Antarctic midge samples within the Palmer boating region to be processed in the field or in the laboratory at Palmer Station. They will then conduct a variety of experiments in the laboratory to characterize the stress tolerance, define the lower and upper limits of lethality for different conditions, and measure the effect of pre-treatment on stress tolerance. They plan to ship frozen and live samples back to their home institution. Samples for physiological experiments will also be shipped to their institution. This final season of the project will involve one participant at Palmer Station, following two successful field seasons on the ARSV Laurence M. Gould (LMG) in 2020 and 2023 and involves international collaboration with both Chilean and British science teams.

Deploying Team Members

  • Cleverson de Sousa Lima