What Are They Doing?

Microbial communities are more than just a scientific curiosity. Microbes represent the single largest source of evolutionary and biochemical diversity on the planet. They are the major agents for cycling carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, and other elements through the ecosystem. Despite their importance in ecosystem function, microbes are still generally overlooked in food web models and nutrient cycles.

Moreover, microbes do not live in isolation: their growth and metabolism are influenced by complex interactions with other microorganisms. This project will focus on the ecology, activity, and roles of microbial communities in Antarctic Lake ecosystems.

Where Are They?

The team will characterize the genetic underpinnings of microbial interactions and the influence of environmental gradients (e.g. light, nutrients, oxygen, sulfur) and seasons (e.g. summer vs. winter) on microbial networks in Lake Fryxell and Lake Bonney in the Taylor Valley within the McMurdo Dry Valley region, Antarctica.

Photo showing the terminal end of Taylor Glacier meeting Lake Bonney, which is fed by the meltwater of the glacier. Lake Bonney, Taylor Valley, Antarctica. Photo by Kevin Dickerson (PolarTREC 2018), Courtesy of ARCUS
The terminal end of Taylor Glacier meets Lake Bonney, which is fed by the meltwater of the glacier. Lake Bonney, Taylor Valley, Antarctica. Photo by Kevin Dickerson (PolarTREC 2018), Courtesy of ARCUS

Latest Journals

Dates
-
Location
McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica
Project Funded Title
ANT LIA: Collaborative Research: Genetic Underpinnings of Microbial Interactions in Chemically Stratified Antarctic Lakes (Award #1937546)
Lucy Coleman - Teacher
Teacher
Natomas Charter School

Although Lucy Coleman grew up camping a lot, it wasn't until after college that she discovered a lifelong passion for helping others appreciate and understand the natural world. For a few years, she spent summers as an interpretive park ranger in Glacier National Park and the school years teaching environmental science at outdoor schools in California. From there, it was a natural transition to settle into a very rewarding teaching career at Natomas Charter School's Performing and Fine Arts Academy, where she's taught life and physical science to 7th and 8th graders since 2001. She enjoys developing interdisciplinary curriculum that connects science with technology, language arts, math and art. Ms. Coleman is especially passionate about climate education and finding innovative solutions to environmental problems. Every day, she appreciates her students' love of learning and discovering new things.

When not teaching, Ms. Coleman makes fast tracks for the wild and roadless places of our planet. Although she and her husband love having overseas adventures, she thinks there's no finer place than the Sierra Nevada in the summertime! In addition to backpacking, her favorite pastimes include trail running, sea kayaking, cross-country skiing, gardening and reading.

Rachel Morgan-Kiss - Researcher
Researcher
Miami University

I have been a Professor in the Department of Microbiology, Miami University, since 2007. I grew up in a small town located on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. I received a B.Sc. from the University of Victoria, British Columbia, in 1995 and a Ph.D. from the University of Western Ontario, Ontario, in 2000. My Ph.D. dissertation focused on the adaptation of the photosynthetic apparatus in a psychrophilic green alga isolated from an ice-covered lake in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Following my Ph.D., I took a position as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Microbiology, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, where I worked on bacterial fatty acid synthase and β-oxidation pathways in the laboratory of John Cronan. I then worked as a research scientist in the laboratory of Thomas Hanson at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, University of Delaware. My work at DBI focused on the photobiology of a thermophilic green sulfur bacterium. My current research program focuses on polar microbiology and specifically on the diversity and function of microbial eukaryotes residing in ice-covered Antarctic lakes. Research projects in my laboratory combine field studies in Antarctica with physiological studies on a large collection of polar photosynthetic and eukaryotic microorganisms.

Microbial Interactions in Antarctic Lakes Resources

Overview

In a “March Madness” game of survival of the fittest, will your microbe and its genes survive the test of changing conditions on Planet Earth and beyond? Students choose genes from a “toolbox” and pit their microbe against their classmates’, using critical thinking and argument writing to determine the microbe with the best chance of success. Based on PolarTREC

Lesson
Antarctic
Less than a week
Middle School and Up
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Overview

Analogs are used in science investigations to better understand systems we can’t access ourselves. In this lesson, students explore the Dry Valleys of Antarctica to better understand microbial communities on early Earth and what might have been possible on ancient Mars. Students will examine photographs, written descriptions, and artistic renderings of early Earth, the Dry Valley lakes, and

Lesson
Antarctic
Less than a week
Middle School and Up
Download, Share, and Remix