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Conducting science in extreme environments: Video-article highlights microbiologist's Antarctica research
Morgan-Kiss’ research focuses on single-celled microorganisms (protists) residing in the permanently ice-capped lakes in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica - specifically Lake Bonney in the JoVE study.
"Our laboratory has a focus on understanding adaptations in extreme environments," said Morgan-Kiss. "Ice-covered lakes are much simpler to study than typical aquatic environments because all of the organisms in the lake are microbial. They are at both the top and the bottom of the food chain."
The perennial ice cover maintains a chemically stratified water column and unlike other inland bodies of water, largely prevents external input of carbon and nutrients from streams.
Studies of protist diversity and ecology in this extreme environment have been limited, say the study authors. Many of the protists have a mixotrophic metabolism, meaning that they survive either by fixing carbon, like plants, or by eating other protists (single-celled microbial eukaryotes). However, it's not known what causes these organisms to display one type of metabolism over another.
A better understanding of protist metabolic versatility in the simple dry valley lake food web will aid in the development of models for the role of protists in the global carbon cycle, say the study authors.
"Research in Antarctica can add a great deal of insight in the realm of climate change. By opening a window into how to conduct science in extreme environments, Dr. Morgan-Kiss and her colleagues are helping advance this field of study," said Hovey.
About the production
Morgan-Kiss explained “My field team filmed the Antarctica sampling steps and a videographer from JoVE visited our lab at Miami and filmed the parts of the project. We wrote a manuscript, which was peer reviewed. Once the manuscript was accepted for publication, the JoVE videographer team developed a script based on our manuscript. It was a very interesting experience, and we were really pleased with the result.”
“Establishment of Microbial Eukaryotic Enrichment Cultures from a Chemically Stratified Antarctic Lake and Assessment of Carbon Fixation Potential” is published in the April 20, 2012 issue of JoVE.