Collaborative Research: Limits and Drivers of Metazoan Distributions in the Transantarctic Mountains
Ice sheet models of the Last Glacial Maximum, and previous glaciation events in the Miocene, suggest that current low altitude, ice-free surfaces in Antarctica were completely covered with ice. If so, the terrestrial biota of Antarctica today would result from recolonization events after each glacial maximum. However, there is emerging evidence that much of the terrestrial Antarctic biota are of ancient origin and have somehow survived these glaciation events. The Transantarctic Mountains TRANsition Zone (TAM-TRANZ) plays a pivotal role in understanding the evolution and biogeographic history of today's Antarctic terrestrial biota, primarily because it contains numerous inland areas that could have served as refugia during glacial maxima. Due to its remote location, the TAM-TRANZ has not been systematically surveyed for animal biodiversity. Although an exhaustive survey of the region requires a multi-discipline, multi-year and multi-region effort, the research herein combines ecological, evolutionary and geophysical expertise to conduct an exploratory investigation of the extreme southern limits of biotic communities. The project will examine the historical geophysical requirements for the colonization and maintenance of functional ecosystems by multicellular organisms, and the feasibility and desirability to implement more systematic biogeographic studies in the future. Broader impacts include graduate and undergraduate student ownership of important subprojects that will provide research, presentation and publication opportunities. The investigators also will contribute to ongoing public education efforts through relationships with K-12 teachers and administrators in the public school districts where the project personnel reside. Finally, the project is leveraged by opportunistic collaboration with scientists associated with Antarctica New Zealand.
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