Skip navigation

I am going to Antarctica to study cyanobacteria because they are  very important for the ecology of Antarctic freshwater system such as lakes, ponds and meltwater ponds on ice shelves.



Cyanobacteria were initially described as algae in the 18th century, before scientists realised they were bacteria. Therefore, they are also called Cyanophyta or blue-green algae based on their blue-green coloration.


Antarctic cyanobacteria are generally characterised by their ability to cope with the harsh conditions of Antarctica, which include:


  • low temperatures
  • ice formation
  • high salt concentrations
  • several months of darkness during the Antarctic winter
  • high ultraviolet radiation during the summer
  • large variations in nutrient supply
  • Many Antarctic cyanobacteria produce antifreeze compounds and UV screens and are able to grow with very limited nutrients.




Cyanobacteria colonise Antarctic freshwater sediments, and  biofilms are formed when cyanobacteria  grow to such a high number that they form a continuous layer on top of a substrate. As they are filamentous - hair-like - they form a web or three-dimensional matrix.


They stay attached to the substrate by producing sticky substances. These so-called exopolymeric substances also enhance the matrix-structures.

Once the matrix structure is formed, other bacteria and microbial eukaryotes colonise the cyanobacterial biofilms and it becomes a microbial mat.

Microbial mats are characterised by a vertical stratification of different microorganisms. The chemical and physical gradients along the mat matrix are a result of the different metabolic activities of the inhabiting organisms and surrounding environmental conditions.


Cyanobacterial mat community


Cyanbacterial mat community in a meltwater pond on the McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica




Cyanobacteria isolated from a meltwater pond on the McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica


Traveling to Antarctica

Posted by Anne D Jungblut Oct 26, 2010

I will leave in two days for my trip from London (UK) to Antarctica. I will first fly to New Zealand and then fly down to Antarctica (also called "Ice Flight"). This year I will work with the US Antarctic (USAP) and the New Zealand Antarctic (ANTNZ) Programs. They share some of their logistics and therefore everybody comes first to Christchurch, New Zealand and then flies to Antarctica from there using special aircrafts such as Globemaster or Hercules.




Today I spend most of the day getting  my equipment together for my field work in Antarctica  and packing it that i can ship it to New Zealand . As usual, it was more than i thought and it took me several attempts to get  it all packed. Well, no it is ready to be shipped to New Zealand from where i will fly to Antarctica.




It will be soon time to pack my backpack for my Antarctic field trip. Let's check the weather on the webcams at Scott Base (New Zealand station) and McMurdo Station (USA).



This year I am planning to study cyanobacteria as part of two very exiting projects. In the first project, I will be part of a research team that will study microscopic life in ice-covered lakes in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica.


In the second project, we want to look at cyanobacteria from different sites on Ross Island and the McMuro Ice Shelf, where already the scientists of Scott’s and Shakleton’s Antarctic collected material during their expeditions.

Anne D Jungblut

Anne D Jungblut

Member since: Sep 2, 2010

I'm Anne Jungblut from the Botany Department. Join me as I head to Antarctica to study cyanobacterial diversity in ice-covered lakes of the Dry Valleys and Ross Island where already scientists on Scott's and Shakleton's expeditions made many discoveries.

View Anne D Jungblut's profile