Project Information
Spring Blooms of Sea Ice Algae Along the Western Antarctic Peninsula: Effects of Warming and Freshening on Cell Physiology and Biogeochemical Cycles.
Short Title:
Controls on Sea-Ice Algae (COSA)
Start Date:
End Date:
Project Location(s)
Sea ice on Western Antarctic Peninsula
Rapid changes in the extent and thickness of sea ice during the austral spring subject microorganisms within or attached to the ice to large fluctuations in temperature, salinity, light and nutrients. This project aims to identify cellular responses in sea-ice algae to increasing temperature and decreasing salinity during the spring melt along the western Antarctic Peninsula and to determine how associated changes at the cellular level can potentially affect dynamic, biologically driven processes. Understanding how sea-ice algae cope with, and are adapted to, their environment will not only help predict how polar ecosystems may change as the extent and thickness of sea ice change, but will also provide a better understanding of the widespread success of photosynthetic life on Earth. The scientific context and resulting advances from the research will be communicated to the general public through outreach activities that includes work with Science Communication Fellows and the popular Polar Science Weekend at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, Washington. The project will provide student training to college students as well as provide for educational experiences for K-12 school children.

There is currently a poor understanding of feedback relationships that exist between the rapidly changing environment in the western Antarctic Peninsula region and sea-ice algal production. The large shifts in temperature and salinity that algae experience during the spring melt affect critical cellular processes, including rates of enzyme-catalyzed reactions involved in photosynthesis and respiration, and the production of stress-protective compounds. These changes in cellular processes are poorly constrained but can be large and may have impacts on local ecosystem productivity and biogeochemical cycles. In particular, this study will focus on the thermal sensitivity of enzymes and the cycling of compatible solutes and exopolymers used for halo- and cryo-protection, and how they influence primary production and the biogeochemical cycling of carbon and nitrogen. Approaches will include field sampling during spring melt, incubation experiments of natural sea-ice communities under variable temperature and salinity conditions, and controlled manipulation of sea-ice algal species in laboratory culture. Employment of a range of techniques, from fast repetition rate fluorometry and gross and net photosynthetic measurements to metabolomics and enzyme kinetics, will tease apart the mechanistic effects of temperature and salinity on cell metabolism and primary production with the goal of quantifying how these changes will impact biogeochemical processes along the western Antarctic Peninsula.

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
Young, Jodi Investigator and contact
Deming, Jody Co-Investigator
Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Award # 1744645
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Deployment Type
B234N ship expedition
B234P general deployment
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
1 (processed data)
Repository Title (link) Format(s) Status
Metabolomics workbench Sea-ice diatom compatible solute shifts ASCII; JSON exists
  1. Young, J. N., & Schmidt, K. (2020). It’s what’s inside that matters: physiological adaptations of high‐latitude marine microalgae to environmental change. New Phytologist. (doi:10.1111/nph.16648)
  2. Dawson, H. M., Heal, K. R., Torstensson, A., Carlson, L. T., Ingalls, A. E., & Young, J. N. (2020). Large Diversity in Nitrogen- and Sulfur-Containing Compatible Solute Profiles in Polar and Temperate Diatoms. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 60(6), 1401–1413. (doi:10.1093/icb/icaa133)
  3. Dawson, H.M., Boysen, A., Heal, K.R., Carlson, L., Ingalls, A., Young, J.N. (2020) Potential of temperature and salinity-driven shifts in diatom compatible solute concentrations to impact biogeochemical cycling within sea ice. Elementa Science of the Anthropocene (doi:10.1525/elementa.421)
  4. Li, M., Young, J.N. (2022) Extracellular Carbonic Anhydrase Supports Constitutive HCO3− Uptake in Fragilariopsis cylindrus Regardless of Temperature Changes. bioRvix preprint (doi:
Platforms and Instruments

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