Collaborative Research: Biogeochemistry of Cyanobactrial Mats and Hyporheic Zone Microbes in McMurdo Dry Valley Glacial Meltwater Streams
The glacial streams of the McMurdo Dry Valleys have extensive cyanobacterial mats that are a probable source of fixed C and N to the Valleys. The research will examine the interplay between the microbial mats in the ephemeral glacial streams and the microbiota of the hyporheic soils (wetted soil zone) underlying and adjacent to those mats. It is hypothesized that the mats are important sources of organic carbon and fixed nitrogen for the soil communities of the hyporheic zone, and release dissolved organic carbon (DOC) and nitrogen (DON) that serves the entire Dry Valley ecosystem. Field efforts will entail both observational and experimental components. Direct comparisons will be made between the mats and microbial populations underlying naturally rehydrated and desiccated mat areas, and between mat areas in the melt streams of the Adams and Miers Glaciers in Miers Valley. Both physiological and phylogenetic indices of the soil microbiota will be examined. Observations will include estimates of rates of mat carbon and nitrogen fixation, soil respiration and leucine and thymidine uptake (as measures of protein & DNA synthesis, respectively) by soil bacteria, bacterial densities and their molecular ecology. Experimental manipulations will include experimental re-wetting of soils and observations of the time course of response of the microbial community. The research will integrate modern molecular genetic approaches (ARISA-DNA fingerprinting and ultra deep 16S rDNA microbial phylogenetic analysis) with geochemistry to study the diversity, ecology, and function of microbial communities that thrive in these extreme environments. The broader impacts of the project include research and educational opportunities for graduate students and a postdoctoral associate. The P.I.s will involve undergraduates as work-study students and in REU programs, and will participate in educational and outreach programs.
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