Project Information
COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH: Remote Characterization of Microbial Mats in Taylor Valley, Antarctica, through In Situ Sampling and Spectral Validation
Short Title:
Remote Sensing of Microbial Communities
Start Date:
End Date:
Microbial mats are found throughout the McMurdo Dry Valleys where summer snowmelt provides liquid water that allows these mats to flourish. Researchers have long studied the environmental conditions microbial mats need to grow. Despite these efforts, it has been difficult to develop a broad picture of these unique ecosystems. Recent advances in satellite technology now provide researchers an exciting new tool to study these special Antarctic ecosystems from space using the unique spectral signatures associated with microbial mats. This new technology not only offers the promise that microbial mats can be mapped and studied from space, this research will also help protect these delicate environments from potentially harmful human impacts that can occur when studying them from the ground. This project will use satellite imagery and spectroscopic techniques to identify and map microbial mat communities and relate their properties and distributions to both field and lab-based measurements. This research provides an exciting new tool to help document and understand the distribution of a major component of the Antarctic ecosystem in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. The goal of this project is to establish quantitative relationships between spectral signatures derived from orbit and the physiological status and biogeochemical properties of microbial mat communities in Taylor Valley, Antarctica, as measured by field and laboratory analyses on collected samples. The goal will be met by (1) refining atmospheric correction techniques using in situ radiometric rectification to derive accurate surface spectra; (2) collecting multispectral orbital images concurrent with in situ sampling and spectral measurements in the field to ensure temporal comparability; (3) measuring sediment, water, and microbial mat samples for organic and inorganic carbon content, essential biogeochemical nutrients, and chlorophyll-a to determine relevant mat characteristics; and (4) quantitatively associating these laboratory-derived characteristics with field-derived and orbital spectral signatures and parameters. The result of this work will be a more robust quantitative link between the distribution of microbial mat communities and their biogeochemical properties to landscape-scale spectral signatures. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
Person Role
Salvatore, Mark Investigator and contact
Barrett, John Investigator
Sokol, Eric Investigator
Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Award # 1745053
Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Award # 1744849
Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Award # 1744785
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
0 (raw data)
  1. Power, S. N., Salvatore, M. R., Sokol, E. R., Stanish, L. F., & Barrett, J. E. (2020). Estimating microbial mat biomass in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica using satellite imagery and ground surveys. Polar Biology. (doi:10.1007/s00300-020-02742-y)
  2. Sokol, E. R., Barrett, J. E., Kohler, T. J., McKnight, D. M., Salvatore, M. R., & Stanish, L. F. (2020). Evaluating Alternative Metacommunity Hypotheses for Diatoms in the McMurdo Dry Valleys Using Simulations and Remote Sensing Data. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 8. (doi:10.3389/fevo.2020.521668)
  3. Salvatore, Mark R. and Borges, Schuyler R. and Barrett, John E. and Sokol, Eric R. and Stanish, Lee F. and Power, Sarah N. and Morin, Paul "Remote characterization of photosynthetic communities in the Fryxell basin of Taylor Valley, Antarctica" Antarctic Science , 2020 (doi:10.1017/S0954102020000176)
  4. Salvatore, M. R., and Levy, J. S., 2021, Chapter 11: The McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica: A geological, environmental, and ecological analog to the Martian surface and near surface. In Mars Geological Enigmas: From the Late Noachian Epoch to the Present Day, R. Soare, S. Conway, J.-P. Williams, and D. Oehler (Eds.). Elsevier Publishing, Cambridge, MA, pp. 291-332 (doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-820245-6.00011-2)
  5. Power, S. N., Salvatore, M. R., Sokol, E. R., Stanish, L. F., Borges, S. R., Adams, B. J., & Barrett, J. E. (2024). Remotely characterizing photosynthetic biocrust in snowpack-fed microhabitats of Taylor Valley, Antarctica. Science of Remote Sensing, 9, 100120. (doi:10.1016/j.srs.2024.100120)

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