Meeting Abstract

S2-3  Monday, Jan. 4 08:30  Geomicrobiology, Engineering and Geophysics: Enabling the exploration of the subglacial microbial community in Antarctica’s Blood Falls MIKUCKI, JA*; TULACZYK, S; AUKEN, E; LYONS, B; DACHWALD, B; CHUA, M; PURCELL, A; Middlebury College; Univ. of California, Santa Cruz; Aarhus University; Ohio State University; FH Aachen; Univ. of Tennessee; Univ. of Tennessee jmikucki@middlebury.edu

We now know that groundwater, saturated sediments and hundreds of subglacial lakes exist below the ice sheets of Antarctica. These unique subglacial environments are one of the most difficult portions of the cryosphere to access. These unexplored ecosystems are ‘hot spots’ for microbial life and will allow for the study of the persistence and evolution of life in icy, dark, isolation. The exploration of subglacial habitats requires an integrated, interdisciplinary approach. This talk will describe how geophysics, drilling and geomicrobiological analyses come together to enable sampling of the subglacial biosphere. The focus will be on the Blood Falls ecosystem, an iron-rich, saline feature at the terminus of Taylor Glacier in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica that appears to be sourced from a much deeper aquifer. We will also highlight recent results from an Antarctic drilling project that sampled Subglacial Lake Whillans, a fresh water lake under the Whillans Ice Stream. Both of these ecosystems appear to persist independent of photosynthetically derived carbon inputs. Molecular data and biogeochemical measurements that indicate chemoautotrophic activity is present with energy derived in part by cycling iron and sulfur compounds. The collaborative efforts of exploring these isolated microbial habitats help enable the development of relevant tools for geomicrobiological examination of other subglacial environments on Earth and prepare us for the exploration of icy extraterrestrial targets.