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Exploring cyanobacterial diversity in Antarctica Blog

9 Posts tagged with the lake_joyce tag

This year, we went back to Lake Joyce to study the benthic biology in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. The 3D microbial structures that are growing out of the mat are particularly interesting because most of them have a calcite skeleton. This is the only lake in the Dry Valleys where microbial mats have such distinctive calcite skeletons.


The calcite skeleton makes these microbialites particularly interesting for geobiology, where modern microbial mats are studied to enable a better interpretation of microbialite fossils from early Earth. 


Over the last three weeks we collected samples that will allow us to investigate if the water chemistry, light and sedimentation effect the growth of microbialites in the lake. We also collected mat material to carry out DNA and microscopy analysis to evaluate the role that cyanobacteria, other bacteria and eukaryotes play on the formation of microbialites and their calcite skeleton.



Microscopy image of Phormidium cyanobacterial filaments in Lake Joyce mats. Most of the Phormidium filaments have a strong purple pigmentation though the production of Phycoerythrin for a better utilisation of the limited light that is available in Lake Joyce.



Anne working at the microscope.



Close-up image of microbialites with calcite skeleton covered by thin microbial mat webs .



Microbialite structures with calcite skeleton collected from Lake Joyce by diving.



The team getting ready for a dive to collect microbial mats.


The main efforts of the field event led by researchers from UC Davis, California, were to map the distribution of the microbial structures in the lake and to test what the influence of sedimentation is on the microbial structures.


The imaging is done by a drop camera that is held on a rope through a hole in the ice. The team installed several traps in the ice that will collect sediment from now until next season.Each hole is individually drilled with a jiffy drill in order to insert the traps and document the microbial mas and microbial structures.



The team drilling a hole in the ice.


Back online! We just got back from our wonderful field camp at Lake Joyce and are busy cleaning our camping equipment and repacking equipment and samples for shipping back to our home institutions. Meanwhile, here is an update on what we have been doing during the last few weeks by Lucy Coleman. Lucy is a teacher in California and part of PolarTrec, and in her blog she talks about the science happening on the cyanobacterial mats, microbialites, sampling, and camp life.


PolarTrec is an amazing programme that allows teachers and researchers to come together through hands-on field experience in Antarctica. It is great to have a chance to work together and learn about teaching, education and outreach!



               Lucy working on blog, video and image updates that will later be taken back to the station and posted online.


The days are getting shorter in London and the Museum's Ice Rink has opened, but this also means that the days are getting longer in Antarctica with the austral summer approaching. This year, I am very lucky to be invited to join an Antarctic expedition to carry out field work at Lake Joyce, a perennially ice-covered lake in McMurdo Dry Valleys.


While I am still packing the cargo and organsing how many woollen and thermal socks I need, half of the team is already there. This year our field work is part of the US Antarctic Program and our main station is McMurdo Station on Ross Island. Here's a webcam with a view over McMurdo.


We will continue our work on microbial diversity and the ecology of benthic cyanobacteria-based microbialite structures to better understand why and how microbialite structures are forming in Antarctic lakes.



US Antarctic Program bag tags and travel documents.



Perennially ice-covered Lake Joyce and Taylore Glacier in the Pearse Valley, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica.


Although I have been writing already for several weeks about different regions and lakes in Antarctica, I have never posted a map.





Map of Antarctica showing the location of Ross Island with US (McMurdo ) and the NZ Antarctic (Scott Base) stations, and the Dr Valley located in Victoria Land, continental Antarctica.




                                                                                     Dry Valleys (Southern Victoria Land)


Map of the Dry Valleys (McMurdo Dry Valleys ASMA Manual) , showing Pearse Valley with Lake Joyce, Wright Valley with Lake Vanda and Taylor Valley with Lake Hoare, which will be the last lake that we are planning to visit. The Dry Valleys are on continental Antarctica.




After one week at Lake Joyce it was time to pack and move our entire camp to Lake Vanda. Although i only stayed one week at Lake Joyce the rest of the team had spend close to a month there. It took two days to pack and four days to move all of the team and the equipment to Lake Vanda. This was also partly due to strong winds, which stopped the helicopter traffic.


Packing  Lake Joyce  camp



Lake Vanda is also an ice-covered lake of the Dry Valleys and located in the Wright Valley. In order to get there we flow over the Asgard Range with amazing views over glaciers and mountain peaks.


Asgard Range




Lake Vanda, Wright Valley




Lake Joyce camp

Posted by Anne D Jungblut Dec 9, 2010

Our camp at Lake Joyce is only a few minutes walk from the lake. It is a fairly big camp with a large kitchen tent and a tech-tent, where we stored all our fragile electronic equipment.  The kitchen tent was  heated which makes it very cosy to hang out in the evening. We usually took turns with the cooking.  Even though we only have a small kitchen , we had everything ranging from Thai and Indian Curries to Burgers and Pasta for dinner.


Lake Joyce camp



Kitchen tent



The objectives of our project are to study the cyanobacterial mats and microbial structures in Lake Joyce to better understand the diversity and processes that create these microbial structures.


In order to study the structures the samples need to be collected by  diving. Once they are brought back to our field lab directly on the ice of Lake Joyce, they are documented, the diversity studied using microscopy and samples preserved for further analysis back at our home institutions. I am particularly interested in collecting material for DNA-based tools to study cyanobacterial diversity.



Diving in Lake Joyce



Microscopy analysis of cyanobacteria from Lake Joyce



Filtration of water samples



Lake Joyce, Antarctica

Posted by Anne D Jungblut Dec 4, 2010

Lake Joyce is in the Pearse Valley, a westward extension of the Taylor Valley next to the Taylor Glacier and fed by the meltwater of the glacier. Lake Joyce is one of the smaller Dry Valley lakes. It is perennially ice-covered and the ice is about five meters thick and the ice is not smooth as known from lakes in Europe. The ice is rugged due to irregular freeze-thawing of the top-layer of the ice and deposition of soil from the surrounding hills by the wind.



Lake Joyce and Taylor Glacier with research tents




Lake ice




Research tents on Lake Joyce ice


As the lake is ice-covered samples are collected through diving. The diving is done by three members of our team that are very experienced scientific divers. In order to directly process our samples we had two tents on the ice next to the dive hole.




Much of the travel around Ross Island and the Dry Valleys is done by helicopter because this is often the only way to reach many of the remote research locations.  Therefore, it was also the means of transportation for me to get to my first field site Lake Joyce in Pearce Valley (Dry Valleys, Antarctica).




I was scheduled to fly early in the morning and my cargo did not only contain my science equipment but also the much awaited  food resupplies for our camp including frozen eggs, olive oil, muesli and plenty of salsa sauce etc.




The flight took me along Ross Island and many incredibly beautiful mountain ranges and glaciers. 


Ross Island with Mt Erebus




Dry Valleys



Arrival at Lake Joyce



Lake Joyce






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.

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