CAREER:Protist Nutritional Strategies in Permanently Stratified Antarctic Lakes
This CAREER proposal will support an early career female PI to establish an integrated research and education program in the fields of polar biology and environmental microbiology, focusing on single-celled eukaryotes (protists) in high latitude ice-covered Antarctic lakes systems. Protists play important roles in energy flow and material cycling, and act as both primary producers (fixing inorganic carbon by photosynthesis) and consumers (preying on bacteria by phagotrophic digestion). The McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV) located in Victoria Land, Antarctica, harbor microbial communities which are isolated in the unique aquatic ecosystem of perennially ice-capped lakes. The lakes support exclusively microbial consortia in chemically stratified water columns that are not influenced by seasonal mixing, allochthonous inputs, or direct human impact. This project will exploit permanently stratified biogeochemistry that is unique across the water columns of several MDV lakes to address gaps in our understanding of protist trophic function in aquatic food webs. The proposed research will examine (1) the impact of permanent biogeochemical gradients on protist trophic strategy, (2) the effect of major abiotic drivers (light and nutrients) on the distribution of two key mixotrophic and photoautotrophic protist species, and (3) the effect of episodic nutrient pulses on mixotroph communities in high latitude (ultraoligotrophic) MDV lakes versus low latitude (eutrophic) watersheds. The project will impact the fields of microbial ecology and environmental microbiology by combining results from field, laboratory and in situ incubation studies to synthesize new models for the protist trophic roles in the aquatic food web. The research component of this proposed project will be tightly integrated with the development of two new education activities designed to exploit the inherent excitement associated with polar biological research. The educational objectives are: 1) to establish a teaching module in polar biology in a core undergraduate course for microbiology majors; 2) to develop an instructional module to engage middle school girls in STEM disciplines. Undergraduates and middle school girls will also work with a doctoral student on his experiments in local Ohio watersheds.
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database