Collaborative Proposal: Roles for Dehydration and Photoperiodism in Preparing an Antarctic Insect for the Polar Night
This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).
Polar terrestrial environments are often described as deserts, where water availability is a critical factor limiting the distribution of terrestrial organisms. In such environments, tolerance of low moisture conditions is likely as important as cold resistance. Winter survival for many polar organisms depends on a coordinated transition from feeding, growth and reproduction during short summers, to an energy-conserving dormancy coupled with enhanced resistance to environmental extremes during long, severe winters. The midge Belgica antarctica provides an excellent model system for investigating mechanisms of stress (cold and low moisture) tolerance, and the role of extreme photoperiodic changes in coordinating seasonal adaptations. The proposed research will use gene and protein level approaches to investigate the seasonal roles of dehydration and photoperiodic cues in preparing a polar insect for winter survival. The research will investigate (1) the role of aquaporins, dehydrins, and cryoprotective dehydration in seasonal survival, and (2) the role of photoperiodism in preparing for winter. Broader impacts involve engagement of K-12 educators and students, including hands-on, in-the-field research experiences for teachers, presentations at local schools, development of lesson plans and podcasts, and publication of articles in education journals. The principal investigators also will engage graduate students, undergraduates, and post-docs in the project.
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