How can we detect and preserve biological signals from glaciers and other remote field environments?
In our new paper, published in Frontiers in Microbiology and led by Chris Trivedi, we tested the efficacy of different DNA & RNA preservation methods on glacier snow and ice samples.
Trivedi C B, Keuschnig C, Larose C, Rissi D V, Mourot R, Bradley J, Winkel M, Benning L G (2022) DNA/RNA Preservation in Glacial Snow and Ice Samples, Frontiers in Microbiology, 13:894893. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2022.894893
Photo: Laura Halbach
Our understanding of glacier ecosystems relies largely on sampling and field campaigns during spring and summer. In this paper, published in Frontiers in Microbiology and led by Matthias Winkel, we look at microbial communities on snow and ice under the midnight sun (i.e. summer) and the dark period (i.e. winter) in Iceland.
Winkel M, Trivedi C B, Mourot R, Bradley J, Vieth-Hillebrand A, Benning L G (2022) Seasonality of Glacial Snow and Ice Microbial Communities, Frontiers in Microbiology, 13:876848. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2022.876848
Photo: Dagmara Wojtanowicz
James is Co-PI on a new project awarded funding from Human Frontier Science Program to study the habitability of the atmosphere. The project, titled 'The atmosphere: A living, breathing ecosystem?' seeks to address whether the atmosphere is simply a passive dispersal medium for microorganisms, or if the atmosphere exhibits structure and activity characteristic of a true ecosystem (i.e. containing active resident and transient microorganisms that influence biology, chemistry, and climate globally). The project, involving Co-PIs Jackie Goordial at the University of Guelph (Canada), Chris Greening at Monash University (Australia), and Elizabeth Trembath-Reichert at Arizona State University (USA), integrates ultra-sensitive single-cell activity measurements, genomic approaches, and planetary-scale modelling to test whether the atmosphere is ecologically structured and metabolically active.
We will soon be advertising postdoctoral and graduate student opportunities associated with this grant - watch this space!
James is Co-PI on a new project WAVES, which has been awarded funding from INTERACT under EU Horizon 2020. With collaborators Ian Stevens and Eva Doting at Aarhus University, Denmark, the team will the investigate the sources, viability and abundance of microbes, and concentrations of nutrients and major ions which reside on and supply glacier ice surfaces, with fieldwork in Svalbard planned for summer 2022.
James is Co-PI on a newly funded project, GHOST (Greenland hot spring microbial diversity contribution to biogeochemical cycling), with Donato Giovanelli at the University of Naples Federico II, Italy. We will characterize geothermal springs on Disko Island, West Greenland, to reveal the relationship between the continental subsurface microbial communities and the spring geochemistry and to understand the role played by subsurface microbes in impacting volatile cycling in the left-over basalt of the Icelandic hot spot. The project is funded by INTERACT under EU Horizon 2020.
A warm welcome to Sonia Papadaki, who starts her PhD in the Bradley lab exploring Arctic endoliths. Sonia is a London NERC DTP student, with interests in microbe-rock interactions and the potential biosignatures that microbes may leave behind in rocks. She will be carrying out molecular and mineralogical analyses on endolithic gypsum samples from Svalbard, and is co-supervised by Ozge Eyice (QMUL), Anne Jungblut (Natural History Museum) and Dominic Papineau (UCL).
Antarcticness, edited by Ilan Kelman, and published by UCL Press, is an open access book combining original research, art and interpretations of different experiences and explorations of Antarctica. James contributed a photo essay entitled 'Voyage into Antarcticness'. You can download the book for free here.
NERC grant to investigate light independent biological processes on glacier surfaces awarded!
James is Co-Principal Investigator on a recently funded NERC project: Cryo365: Are There Perennial and Light-Independent Microbial Processes on Supraglacial Ecosystems? The project will investigate whether microbial activity on Arctic glaciers persists year-round - specifically whether light-independent microbial activity on Arctic glaciers sustains perennial ecosystems which release climate-warming gases. The project is led by Arwyn Edwards at Aberystwyth University, and also involves Co-Is Neil Glasser, Andrew Mitchell, and Luis Mur, and involves year-round fieldwork in Svalbard. The award is for £768,329.
Anastasia Hambi, a second-year undergraduate student studying Environmental Science at QMUL, joins the Bradley lab as a paid research student. The position is funded by a Student Research Project award to James. Anastasia will be working in the labs at QMUL over a 10-week period, measuring major ions in glacier forefield soils collected as part of the NERC-funded SUN SPEARS project.
James is in Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, carrying out fieldwork supported by the SIOS Access Program (CAP-BIO, SIOS-2019-0011). Our aim is to sample proglacial soils during the autumn freeze-up period as the last rays of sunshine disappear before the long Polar night, and carry out essential maintenance on the sensor equipment we installed during the summer.
The onset of autumn freeze-up limits biological activity because temperatures fall below zero, and liquid water becomes scarce. However, recent studies have shown that biological activity may persist year-round, despite the harsh environment. Nevertheless, the seasonal dynamics of Arctic soil ecosystems are barely beginning to be explored, in part because of logistical challenges associated with accessing field sites during the permanently dark period.
The results of the project will contribute to understanding the future of Arctic soils exposed by glacier retreat, and the role the long polar night plays in that future.
The CAP-BIO field team consists of James Bradley (QMUL, GFZ), Mihai Cimpoiasu and Harry Harrison (BGS), Lara Vimercati (CU Boulder).