Ten percent of the Earth’s surface is subglacial and holds a quarter of the world’s soil carbon. The environment was long thought to be incapable of supporting life, but recent studies have revealed that microbes thrive in these cold, dark regions though the processes that enable them to do so remain poorly understood.
Researchers are studying the subglacial environment below Taylor Glacier, McMurdo Dry Valleys Antarctica to better understand how carbon is sequestered here and how this impacts the global carbon cycle. The project calls for sequencing five bacteria from this Blood Falls ecosystem to answer questions such as how they tolerate the cold, providing further publicly accessible insight on psychrophiles, and what organic material they can use in an environment that doesn’t allow photosynthesis to take place. Additionally, the bacterial genomes may contain novel information regarding sulfur and iron metabolic processes, allowing researchers insight into the microbes’ roles in the global iron and sulfur cycles.
Principal Investigators: Joseph Grzymski, Desert Research Institute
Program: CSP 2010