The Antarctic Dry Valley system represents one of the harshest and most extreme environments inhabited by microorganisms on Earth. The soils of these valleys contain microbes that must cope with cold temperatures, poor water and nutrient availability, high salinities, exposure to high doses of ultraviolet radiation, and lack of sunlight during polar winters. Such an ecosystem was thought to have relatively low microbial biodiversity, but recent studies suggest otherwise. Sequencing the soil metagenomes from this region will provide researchers with insight into the metabolic adaptations of these unusual organisms. The sequencing information is also expected to provide researchers with greater insight into the mechanisms employed by polar microbial communities to adapt and function under conditions such as extremely low nutrient levels and extremely low water availability. Additionally, the Antarctic Dry Valleys allows researchers to study the carbon cycle within the context of an extremely simple trophic system where the biology is predominantly microbial and structured by abiotic environmental variables. Finally, the genetic information could offer applications such as environmental remediation in cold ecosystems.
Proposer’s Name: S. Craig Cary and Charles K. Lee