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Exploring cyanobacterial diversity in Antarctica Blog

2 Posts tagged with the microscopy tag

Summer student Josi has been working with Dr Anne Jungblut on the Museum's cyanobacteria collections. She shares her experience of working in the lab with some very chilly samples.


My name is Josi and I'm in the middle of a summer studentship here at the Museum. I have been working with Dr Anne Jungblut on her cyanobacteria project and would love to share what I've been doing over the last several weeks at the Museum.


My summer project is supported by funding from the British Phycological Society, which focuses on research on microalgae, seaweeds, cyanobacteria etc. The society supports research projects through grants and has a biannual publication called The Phycologist.


Antarctic samples


One of my responsibilities over the summer has been to take care of the cyanobacteria in Anne's cyanobacteria culture collection. In the lab, biological samples, or cultures, need to grow in conditions similar to their natural habitats. This keeps them alive and allows us to carry out experiments even when the organisms have been removed from their orginal sites. For example, some of the cyanobacteria samples were collected during Antarctic expeditions featured on this blog and they are now kept in growth chambers here at the Museum.



Growth chamber for Antarctic cyanobacteria.


In the photo, you can see one of these growth chambers or illuminators with each cyanobacteria sample on its separate media place. The bright light on the inside of the door always stays on - it allows the cyanobacteria to carry out photosynthesis. I think of this illuminator as a "cyanobacteria garden" where we wait for the samples to grow. As these cyanobacteria are used to growing under Antarctic conditions, they are quite hardy! But every half year or so the cyanobacteria need to be re-cultured. This process of transferring cells to new medium provides them with fresh nutrients to grow.


I also used light microscopy to figure out if the samples are uni-algal - whether they are only one cyanobacterium morphotype or still a mixture of cyanobacteria. This is important because we can only use them for DNA characerisation when they are unialgal.


pic2.jpgMicroscopy image of unialgal cyanobacteria culture (L) and mixed sample with unicellular and filamentous cyanobacteria (R).


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


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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