BATON ROUGE Antarctica has long held secrets of the earth's history locked in its icy depths, and until recently, there has been very little information on the environments that have been sealed beneath miles of ice for millions of years. Now, a team of researchers from nine institutions including LSU have been funded to the tune of $10 million dollars by the National Science Foundation, or NSF, to get to the bottom of things literally. These scientists will drill through the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica to directly access a subglacial lake and the cavity below the ice shelf.
WISSARD, the Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling project, will investigate the physical, chemical and geobiological interactions in subglacial environments poised at the interface of the Antarctic cryosphere, geosphere and global ocean. LSU will primarily be responsible for one phase of WISSARD known as GBASE, or GeomicroBiology of Antarctic Subglacial Environments, which will focus on the microbes that call this extreme environment home.
"We expect to find novel microbial species and ecosystems in the subglacial hydrological system beneath the Whillans Ice Stream that thrive in permanent cold and darkness," said Brent Christner, LSU assistant professor of biological sciences and a principal investigator for the GBASE program. "Our recent work supports the notion that Antarctic subglacial environments are a habitat for life. The WISSARD project will allow us to study these systems in an unprecedented way."
The overarching scientific objective of WISSARD is to assess the role of water beneath the Whillans Ice Stream in interlinked glaciological, geological, microbiological, geochemical and oceanographic systems. GBASE will examine distinct, but hydrologically-related, subglacial environments, assess the biodiversity there, reveal how these environments function in constant cold and no sunlight and determine the
|Contact: Ashley Berthelot|
Louisiana State University