Project Information
LTER: MCM6 - The Roles of Legacy and Ecological Connectivity in a Polar Desert Ecosystem
Start Date:
End Date:
In this iteration of the McMurdo LTER project (MCM6), the project team will test ecological connectivity and stability theory in a system subject to strong physical drivers (geological legacies, extreme seasonality, and contemporary climate change) and driven by microbial organisms. Since microorganisms regulate most of the world's critical biogeochemical functions, these insights will be relevant far beyond polar ecosystems and will inform understanding and expectations of how natural and managed ecosystems respond to ongoing anthropogenic global change. MCM6 builds on previous foundational research, both in Antarctica and within the LTER network, to consider the temporal aspects of connectivity and how it relates to ecosystem stability. The project will examine how changes in the temporal variability of ecological connectivity interact with the legacies of the existing landscape that have defined habitats and biogeochemical cycling for millennia. The project team hypothesizes that the structure and functioning of the MDV ecosystem is dependent upon legacies and the contemporary frequency, duration, and magnitude of ecological connectivity. This hypothesis will be tested with new and continuing monitoring, experiments, and analyses of long-term datasets to examine: 1) the stability of these ecosystems as reflected by sentinel taxa, 2) the relationship between ecological legacies and ecosystem resilience, 3) the importance of material carryover during periods of low connectivity to maintaining biological activity and community stability, and 4) how changes in disturbance dynamics disrupt ecological cycles through the polar night. Tests of these hypotheses will occur in field and modeling activities using new and long-term datasets already collected. New datasets resulting from field activities will be made freely available via widely-known online databases (MCM LTER and EDI). The project team has also developed six Antarctic Core Ideas that encompass themes from data literacy to polar food webs and form a consistent thread across the education and outreach activities. Building on past success, collaborations will be established with teachers and artists embedded within the science teams, who will work to develop educational modules with science content informed by direct experience and artistic expression. Undergraduate mentoring efforts will incorporate computational methods through a new data-intensive scientific training program for MCM REU students. The project will also establish an Antarctic Research Experience for Community College Students at CU Boulder, to provide an immersive educational and research experience for students from diverse backgrounds in community colleges. MCM LTER will continue its mission of training and mentoring students, postdocs, and early career scientists as the next generation of leaders in polar ecosystem science and stewardship. Historically underrepresented participation will be expanded at each level of the project. To aid in these efforts, the project has established Education & Outreach and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committees to lead, coordinate, support, and integrate these activities through all aspects of MCM6.
Person Role
Gooseff, Michael N. Investigator and contact
Adams, Byron Co-Investigator
Barrett, John Co-Investigator
Diaz, Melisa A. Co-Investigator
Doran, Peter Co-Investigator
Dugan, Hilary A. Co-Investigator
Mackey, Tyler Co-Investigator
Morgan-Kiss, Rachael Co-Investigator
Salvatore, Mark Co-Investigator
Takacs-Vesbach, Cristina Co-Investigator
Zeglin, Lydia H. Co-Investigator
Brown, Renée F. Technical Contact
Antarctic Integrated System Science Award # 2224760
Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Award # 2224760
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
Not provided
Repository Title (link) Format(s) Status
Environmental Data Initiative (EDI) EDI Data Portal: McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER exists
  1. 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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