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LSU professor looks for life in and under antarctic ice
Date:8/31/2007

uggests that the microbes may stay metabolically active while entrapped in the ice, giving them the ability to repair damage as it occurs. If this is the case, these microbes may be essentially immortal when frozen that is, if a continuous energy supply was available, he said.

Christners current laboratory research has shown that glacier microbes are capable of metabolic activity when frozen down to -20 degrees Celcius. Our experiments have revealed the potential for microbes to metabolize under frozen conditions, but we still lack the smoking gun which proves this occurs in nature. We are now taking what we learned in the lab at LSU and using it to design experiments that address this question in real Antarctic ice samples, he said.

In collaboration with research colleagues from Montana State University, Christner and two members of his laboratory will deploy to Antarctica in October 2007. Shawn Doyle, LSU senior and microbiology major, will accompany Christner, staying through January 2008. I interviewed students based on their academic record and experiences, said Christner. Were looking for more than a lab rat, because, as you might imagine, Antarctica presents various challenges for doing science. He is currently looking for a Ph.D. student to join the research team and conduct field work during the 2008-09 Antarctic season.

The implication of our research is that the large ice sheets of Antarctica, which make up 70 percent of the planets fresh water reserves, may represent active biomes, substantially expanding the known boundaries for life on Earth, said Christner. Terrestrial glacier environments provide analogues to address questions relevant to the search for past or present microbial life in extraterrestrial ice on planets and moons in our solar system. Based on what we now know about the tenacity of life in Earths deep cold biosphere, microbial life surviving and persisting in ice on Mars or Europa is not that much of a stretch.


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Contact: Brent Christner
xner@lsu.edu
225-578-1734
Louisiana State University
Source:Eurekalert

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