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Exploring cyanobacterial diversity in Antarctica Blog

2 Posts tagged with the microbial_mats tag

It is November 2012 and it is time to head back to Antarctica. This year we are a team of researchers and students from University of Canterbury (NZ), UC Davis (USA) and the Natural History Museum, London. We are coming from the research areas of Microbial Biodiversity, Microbial Ecology and Geobiology. We will be working in the McMurdo Dry Valleys and study the benthic biology of Lake Fryxell and Lake Vanda. In total, we will be in Antarctica seven weeks, two weeks at Lake Fryxell and three weeks at Lake Vanda, which is very exciting !


Cyanobacteria-based microbial mats and microbialites cover large parts of these lakes. The lakes are ice-covered and meromictic with a stratified water column, which makes them very interesting systems to study how environmental conditions affect microbial diversity and community composition and microbialite morphologies and their assemblages. The microbial communities will be collected by divers ( ...not me but the other members of my team). They will also characterise the different shapes of microbialite structures, as well as light conditions and photosynthesis activity of the lake environment.   We will also do light microscopy to study the cyanobacterial morphotype diversity.


Lake Fryxell at night



Life in Lake Joyce is dominated by microbes. The water of Lake Joyce is nutrient-depleted and only little light makes it through the ice. The nutrient concentrations are so low in the water column that microbes remain at low concentrations, however diverse microbial communities can be found a long the bottom and the sides of the lake.


Much of the microbial communities are cyanobacterial mats and many unusual structures can be found.


Some of the structures are several centimeters  tall and have  a orange-purple colour. The colour is due to the  production of cyanobacterial pigments that help capture light for photosynthesis.