Skip navigation

Microbial biodiversity

5 Posts tagged with the soil_sampling tag

Thanks to a Shackleton Scholarship Fund and the help of Falklands Conservation, we were able to spend a few days on the Falklands to do sampling of soils for microbiology analysis at sites where Falklands Conservation is currently carrying out habitat restoration pilot studies.


We spent two busy days in the Fritzroy area and Cape Pembroke. The first day, we not only got to visit various sites covered in rich Diddle-dee and grassland vegetation as well as see exposed peat and clay areas with the Habitat Restoration Officer, but also got to enjoy one of the rare hot summer days on the Falkland Islands. Our second day was apparently a lot more like a 'normal' day in February with thick clouds, rain and strong gusts of winds.                                                                              


                                                                     Tussock grass at Cape Pembroke, Falkland Islands.


                                                                              Diddle-Dee in Fitzroy, Falkland Islands.


                                                        Fieldwork with the Habitat Restoration Officer, Falklands Conservation.



                                                                               Collection of soil using a corer.



                                                                      Collection of soil for molecular analysis.


Our last field trip was to Harpon Bay. Unfortunately, we managed to pick one of the most rainy days of our whole trip. Nevertheless, we still got some good samples, and even more enjoyed dinner and a warm cup of tea in the evening. The main glacier in Harpon Bay is the Lyell Glacier which is highly covered with debris. It is also a very active glacier with a lot of calving.



Lyell Glacier with meltwater stream and seal wallows

IMG_9199.jpgLyell glacier with ice debris

But, now it is time to say good-bye to South Georgia. After 1-month of extensive sampling, we now have an interesting set of samples to take back to the UK for further analysis. The last two days, we spend cleaning, packing, and getting our samples ready for shipping.


We left South Georgia on the James Clark Ross (JCR), one of the British Antarctic Survey's research vessels. The JCR arrived on a windy morning and we were all transferred by jet boat onto it. The JCR left Cumberland Bay as soon as we were onboard, and we waved King Edward Point goody-bye.


SG8.jpgLast views of Grytviken (thanks to Barbara for the images)


King Edward Point Research station

Before the JCR headed towards the Falklands Islands, there was another stop at Bird Island, a small island at the northern tip of South Georgia. A few people joined us from there, and some re-supplies were loaded off. It was a cloudy morning, but Bird Island still looked beautiful. A multitude of birds such as petrels and albatrosses could be seen.


After a few hours at Bird Island, we headed for the open sea. While we were on the JCR , we had a chance to visit the labs and find out more about the science happening on the research cruise. We were lucky the sea was pretty calm throughout our journey, and after 3 days we arrived in Stanley, Falksland Islands. From here, we jumped on a plane to get back to London.



Bird Island


Several albatrosses


On the JCR in open sea


JCR in Stanley Harbour, Falkland Islands


In our project, we would like to investigate how microbial communities  differ between soil types. Therefore, we need to characterise the soil types and chemistry of the soils. This will entail measurements of pH, moisture content and nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and iron.


The pH and soil moisture were determined straight after the collection on return to King Edward Point.  It makes quite a big mess in the lab, but worth it! Nutrient analyses are more complicated and therefore will be done back in the UK.

                                        IMG_8126.jpg Collection of a scree sample for molecular analsysis


IMG_8185.jpgOur little soil lab at KEP


We also measure pH, conductivity, oxygen and temperature for every stream that we sample, but this has to be done directly at the sampling site. For continous measurement over several days, a data logger was also installed in a stream near the station.

                                             DSCF1282.jpgSetting up a data logger in a stream

IMG_8024.jpgOur field probes for pH, conductivity, temperature and  oxygen


For the second week of our trip to South Georgia, our plan was to sample in St Andrews Bay, which is located on the north coast of South Georgia. The only way for us to get there was to pack our bags and sampling gear and get going on a 7.5 hour hike from Sjörling Valley in Cumberland East Bay, across Lönnberg Valley and into St Andrews Bay, descending a long and steep scree slope.


It was quite a hike but at the end, we were rewarded with views on the massive Heaney, Cook and Buxton Glacier as well as South Georgia's largest king penguin colony, with more than 100,000 birds. The hut was also amazing with penguins and fur and elephant seals as friendly next door neighbours.


Sjörling Valley

IMG_8466.jpgLönnberg Valley



First views of St Andrews Bay with Heaney, Cook and Buxton Glaciers


The hut in St Andrews Bay


Here in St Andrews Bay there were also a lot of molting penguins, and it seems that they preferably do this by standing with their feet in the cool stream waters. Because of the huge numbers of penguins, most of the streams had two or three rows of penguins lining the stream shores.



Molting king penguin

                   IMG_8586.jpgPenguins along the streams in St Andrews Bay


While we were in St Andrews Bay, we had a lot of sampling to do. This included a visit to the heart of the penguin colony to collect soil samples. The samples will help us to  evaluate how the microbial diveristy in soils and streams that are heavily influcend by wildlife will differ to sites without penguins or seals. The analysis of the samples will also assist us in understanding how the presence of wildlife is linked to the nutrients that enter the coastal waters.


King penguin colony in St Andews Bay


Soil sampling in St Andrews Bay



                                                                          Water sampling in St Andrews Bay


A field team with members from the Natural History Museum and University of Sheffield will spend five weeks in January to February 2013 at King Edward Point research station in Cumberland Bay on South Georgia, Southern Atlantic Ocean. The project is funded through a Research Grant by the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.


The aims of the field trip are to collect samples from soils and streams around Cumberland Bay such as Greene and Barff Peninsula to perform a comprehensive characterization of the bacterial and microbial eukaryotic diversity using next generation sequencing. The sample collection will enable to map bacteria and microbial eukaryotic community richness, composition and geographic distribution. Nutrients analysis for especially nitrogen and iron will also be performed to evaluate the relationship between microbial diversity and nutrients present in soils and streams.


This is important because bacteria and microbial eukaryotes are a major component of soils, and are essential for maintaining terrestrial ecosystems. Microbes are also important for processing of organic biomass and minerals in the soils, and nutrients generated in the soils can be transported into coastal waters through terrestrial runoff, and could subsequently potentially provide a source of nutrients for phytoplankton and fish in the coastal waters of South Georgia.


South Georgia is an island in the southern Atlantic Ocean and located south of the Antarctic Convergence, which is a climatic boundary between air and water masses of the Antarctic and subantarctic regions. South Georgia is around 170 long and between 2 to 40 km wid.


map1.jpgSouth Georgia in Southern Atlantic Ocean


map2.jpgSouth Georgia and Cumberland Bay (based on BAS map of South Georiga)



The landscapes of South Georiga characterized by steep barren mountainswith Mount Paget being up to 2.934 m high, numerous large glaciers and snowfields. The vegetation is dominated by mosses, lichen, grasses and a several flowering plant species . Ponds and streams are often rich in algae and mosses (


IMG_9101.jpgCumberland Bay



By the way, here are links to two webcams on South Georgia next the Kind Edward Point station:


South Georgia Webcam1



South Georgia Webcam2