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Antarctic Genomic and Proteomic Survey


Since 2008, JCVI scientists have traveled to the icy continent of Antarctica as part of the JCVI Environmental Genomics program. The natural laboratory of Antarctica remains a prime location for scientific research. As one of the most untouched regions on the earth and home to the world’s largest marine ecosystem, Antarctica and the Southern Ocean are invaluable to JCVI research involving climate change.

To date our scientists have completed seven research expeditions, four of which have been funded by grants to Allen from National Science Foundation (NSF). Our extensive sampling of inland lakes and ocean waters has revealed a great diversity of microorganisms in the continent’s frigid waters. In 2012 our research in the Ross Sea, one of the most productive phytoplankton regions in the Southern Ocean, revealed a new role for temperature and vitamin B12 in regulating the productivity of Ross Sea phytoplankton communities. We also generated new data on the role of phytoplankton bacterial interactions in controlling the response of phytoplankton to iron (Fe) addition.

Diatoms and the colonial haptophyte Phaeocystis a ntarctica are the dominant phytoplankton groups that drive new production and the biological pump along the continental zone of Antarctica. Diatoms control the silicon (Si) cycle in the ocean and support most krill-based food webs in the seas surrounding the Antarctic continent. JCVI scientists want to study the role of the different phytoplankton groups in shaping both the marine food web and the biogeochemical cycles of carbon (C), nitrogen (N), sulfur (S) and micronutrients. Understanding the current control factors for key algal functional groups will enable us to predict how Southern Ocean food webs may respond to future climate change.

Our most recent sampling expedition concluded in January 2015. JCVI scientists Andy Allen, Erin Bertrand and Jeff Hoffman joined teams lead by David Hutchins of the University of Southern California and Deborah Bronk of the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS). The major objectives of this collaborative work are to understand how changes in micronutrient availability, temperature, and pCO2 will impact growth, community composition, and nutrient utilization in Southern Ocean phytoplankton.  Preliminary results suggest that changing micronutrient availability and increasing temperature will have a significant impact on the base of the Antarctic food web. Please visit the Publications page for several scientific papers by JCVI scientists relating to phytoplankton genomics, metabolism, trace metal and vitamin nutrition, and physiology.

Follow the Antarctic Trip

Follow the researchers during and after the trip on the JCVI Antarctic Blog and on the JCVI Twitter PolarPlankton feed.

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