Temperature is one of the most important abiotic determinants of the vitality, viability and distribution of life forms and therefore the biology of cold-adapted organisms is of broad general interest. As polar temperatures rise, the permanent frozen portion of the Arctic is shrinking, as is the geographical region with a summer average of 10ºC, which makes the Arctic more accessible today. The biology of the region, while fascinating and important both from a basic science perspective as well as for its impact on carbon dioxide sequestration and climate change, is under-explored. The environment is harsh for biology and conducive only to extremophiles who have adapted to these environments. Among these organisms are eukaryotic algae, commonly called “snow algae,” recognized because of the color they impart to the snow during mass developments or blooms. Snow algae may not be the most abundant eukaryotes in the Arctic permafrost, but they are certainly the most visible. Two lines of inquiry are of particular interest for the analysis of the genomes of snow algae. One is the obvious question of how the organisms survive freezing temperatures for long periods of time and the other is concerned with the discovery of novel pathways and molecules that have evolved in these organisms for dealing with particular stresses.
Proposer’s Name: Sabeeha Merchant, UCLA