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Exploring cyanobacterial diversity in Antarctica Blog

53 Posts tagged with the antarctica tag

McMurdo Station is the biggest station of the US Antarctic Program with more than 1000 people in summer. It is like a small city with a café and a pub or even two pubs and many clubs that form over the summer.


I spend much of time the in Crary Lab, which is the main research facility at the station. The research carried out in the Crary lab ranges from biological to earth and atmospheric sciences. The Crary Lab has also a library with great views over the McMurdo Ice Shelf.


View form the library to the Ice Runway with the Royal Society mountain range in the background.



You can also see the helicopter pad from the library. Most scientist go to their field sites by helicopter.




Our lab







Over the summer months the sun does not set in Antarctica. The photo below was taken at 23h00 from our lab space in the Crary Lab at McMurdo Station.


It show the  the McMurdo Ice Shelf with Mount  Discovery  in the middle and Brown Peninsular on the right.




Well, actually we never left Christchurch yesterday! Just before the departure, our flight was cancelled because of strong winds in Antarctica. BUT today we made it!!!






The aircraft landed on the McMurdo Ice Shelf and from there we get brought to McMurdo Station on Ivan the Terra Bus.




McMurdo Station




It is 7 am and I am sitting in the departure launch of the US Antarctic departure room. After getting up this morning at 5 am to pack the last things , my bags are checked in  and I am now dressed in my ECW clothing, and waiting for the safety briefing for the flight. It is a nice sunny morning and hopefully we will make to Antarctica.


If weather conditions change on the way, the machine will  return to Christchurch.  As the main luggage does not get unloaded again, we labelled one of our bags as “boomerang bag” that will get stored separately and will be returned to us that we do not have to walk around Christchurch with our ECW gear for the next days.


Let’s hope for the best!



Queuing for check-in:



Our aircraft:



Inside the aircraft:



It is a very full flight including two helicopters for the Italian Antarctic Program:



Finally it was time to get my Antarctic clothing. The clothing is issued by New Zealand and US Antarctic programs in the International Antarctic Centre:





AND this is the cold the extreme cold weather clothing, that we need to wear or have in our carry-on bag on the flight to Antarctica in case there will be an emergency landing .





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.



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