Project Information
Historical and Contemporary Drivers of Macroalgal Reproductive System Variation along the Western Antarctic Peninsula
Start Date:
End Date:
General abstract

Most organisms alternate between life stages that vary in the number and arrangement of their chromosomes, in the number of cells they possess, and in the environmental conditions in which they are best adapted to live. Much of what we understand about these alternations comes from organisms like animals and land plants in which one of the two stages dominates the life cycle with the other small and short-lived. However, across the tree of life there are countless examples of organisms in which both stages are of long duration, multicellular, or both. These life cycles challenge common ideas used to explain ecological and evolutionary patterns we see in nature. Macroalgae (seaweeds) display a wide range of life cycle types and consequently are excellent models to test and expand ideas about how life cycles evolve. Undersea forests of seaweeds with a variety of life cycle types dominate the shallow waters of the western Antarctic Peninsula where they are ecologically important and, for most of the species, at the southern end of their geographic range. Using existing samples from previous expeditions to Antarctica, the investigators are uniquely positioned to test and expand knowledge of life cycle evolution and how this intersects with reproductive mode variation. This project will also further the NSF goals of training new generations of scientists and of making scientific discoveries available to the public. The project will support a postdoctoral scholar as well as a faculty member new to US Antarctic research. The investigators will take advantage of an existing program to include high school or undergraduate students in the work which will also expand mentorship experience for the postdoc. All team members will contribute by writing for blogs produced by professional societies for the public.

Technical abstract

Existing macroalgal taxa samples from across a latitudinal gradient in the western Antarctic Peninsula will be used to explore patterns of genetic diversity from the center to the southern latitudinal limits of their range. Not only will genetic diversity be documented for an understudied and critical group of Antarctic organisms, but how it changes with latitude, compounded by high levels of endemism, will be explored. This will be accomplished by (i) characterization of latitudinal gradients in genetic diversity of many species and (ii) determination of the reproductive system of five focal foundation species. At present, there are few genetic data for macroalgae, dominant primary producers in coastal ecosystems around the world. This gap is particularly acute along Antarctic coastlines that are experiencing rapid climate change. Furthermore, Antarctica is isolated by the Southern Ocean, decreasing the likelihood of regular migration from other land masses. Latitudinal reproductive system patterns are predicted to be largely driven by recolonization events that increase with latitude due to changes in iceberg scour and sea ice coverage. Thus, Antarctica is the best place to understand what processes underlie reproductive mode variation in populations that are isolated, including many endemic taxa, while simultaneously extending our knowledge about how marginal environments converge with complex life cycles.

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
Amsler, Charles Investigator and contact
Krueger-Hadfield, Stacy Investigator
Antarctic Organisms and Ecosystems Award # 2301026
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
Not provided

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