Annick Wilmotte Studying Samples - © International Polar Foundation

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Preparing to Study Micro-organisms in Antarctica

The harsh and rigorous climate in Antarctica can only be met by a few species year-round. Many people think that penguins and seals are the most common organisms in Antarctica, leaving out the abundant micro-organisms that prevail in the ice-free areas of the continent. There is a lot more to Antarctica than penguins and sea birds, and this is exactly what three teams of microbiologists and ecologists from Ghent University and the Université de Liège will set out to study at the Princess Elisabeth station this coming winter (austral summer).

According to the latest flight schedule, the team will fly from Cape Town (South Africa) to Antarctica on January 26th 2009 and return on February 17th. Before leaving on the expedition, the team will have a close look at the aerial views of the Princess Elisabeth surroundings in order to pinpoint the most promising areas for sampling.

Although the team is mostly composed of Belgian scientists, two foreign scientists, Steve Roberts (British Antarctic Survey in the UK, geomorphology - earth sciences) and John Gibson (University of Tasmania in Australia, limnology - biology), will join in on the expedition and the analysis of the samples.

Equipment needed for the field study:

  • Field microscope to study the samples on the spot
  • Drill to pierce through the lake ice and examine the bottom of lakes
  • UWITEC corer: tool to examine lake sediments
  • Multimeter to control the water's pH, salinity, oxygen concentration and temperature
  • Recipients to hold the samples (sterile bags, plastic tubes) and plastic bottles for the water samples to analyse their chemical composition
  • A freezer to transport the samples (-20°C) without interrupting the cold chain. This is necessary to perform molecular analyses in the labs. Duplicate samples will also be kept cold (+5°C) during transportation in order to, later, isolate and cultivate particular micro-organisms.

Author: IPF

Picture: Annick Wilmotte Studying Samples - © International Polar Foundation

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