Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Digging Deeper Below Antarctica's Lake Vida

16.09.2009
Antarctica's Lake Vida, a geologic curiosity that is essentially an ice bottle of brine, is home to some of the oldest and coldest living organisms on Earth.

Perpetually covered by more than 60 feet of ice, the brine below -- water that is five to seven times more salty than seawater -- has been found to be home to cryobiological microbes some 2,800 years old which were revived after a gradual thaw.

That widely reported finding came in 2002 from Peter Doran, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. But the discovery raised many new questions. Now, Doran and his department colleague Fabien Kenig with collaborators from the Nevada-based Desert Research Institute will return to Lake Vida late next year for more exploration, funded by a $1.1 million National Science Foundation grant.

Doran and Kenig plan to perform the first-ever drilling entirely through Lake Vida's thick ice cap, into the brine, and down into sediment below, retrieving about 10 feet or more of core sample for analysis.

"The main goal is to get into that brine pocket and the sediment beneath it to both document and define the ecosystem that's there today, and the history of that ecosystem," Doran said.

The sediment samples could yield clues about life in such an extreme environment dating back thousands of years, which could help geoscientists draw a better picture of processes that occur as the Earth moves into colder periods.

"If we took, for example, a Wisconsin lake and started turning the temperatures down during a climatic downturn, what is the impact on the lake's ecosystem and what strategies are used by living things to survive this extremely cold brine?" Doran said of the salty liquid that hovers around 10 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. "There are few examples on Earth of things shown to live in that water temperature."

A University of Wisconsin group will drill the ice hole, but special care will be required in preparing the site. A tent will be partitioned to provide both a drilling site cover and adjacent laboratory to analyze samples. It will be sort of like setting up a hospital operating room in the Antarctic cold, with the drill requiring the sanitary cleanliness of a surgeon's scalpel to prevent any surface contaminants from ruining samples.

Kenig, an organic geochemist, will study the lake's carbon and organic chemistry as well as molecular fossils in the sediment core. These preserved organic compounds will point to changes in the ecosystem as the lake froze.

"As this environment was isolated for some time, we need to be very cautious not to introduce any external elements that could bias our samples," Kenig said. To assure sample purity, nothing plastic or rubber will be used in the drilling and all equipment penetrating the lake water and sediment will be sterilized.

While specially preserved samples will be shipped back to UIC and the Desert Research Institute for later analysis, some work, such as microbial counts, will be done on site. Doran's previous on-site research at Lake Vida found in the ice the highest concentration of nitrous oxide -- "laughing gas" -- of any ecosystem on Earth. It was a clue that would make any scientist smile.

"This gas is produced by microbes," Doran said. "That was a hint that we had a viable ecosystem there."

The NSF award is funded under the federal government's economic stimulus plan, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Paul Francuch | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.uic.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Less radiation in inner Van Allen belt than previously believed
21.03.2017 | DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory

nachricht Mars volcano, Earth's dinosaurs went extinct about the same time
21.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Pulverizing electronic waste is green, clean -- and cold

22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers hazard a ride in a 'drifting carousel' to understand pulsating stars

22.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New gel-like coating beefs up the performance of lithium-sulfur batteries

22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>