Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Seeking Life At Its Limits Leads To Antarctica

Date:
April 26, 1999
Source:
Temple University
Summary:
Like many of his students, Robert W. Sanders, a professor of biology at Temple University, headed south for winter break. However, it was not sun and surf he was seeking, but slush and ice. Beginning in late December, Sanders and colleagues from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in Woods Hole, MA, embarked on a two-month trip to Antarctica aboard an ice-breaking research vessel to study microorganisms and retrieve samples to analyze back in their laboratories. The National Science Foundation's "Life in Extreme Environments" (LExEn) program funded the work.

Breaking The Ice, Temple University Biologist Spends Two Months Researching In Antarctica

Related Articles


Like many of his students, Robert W. Sanders, a professor of biology at Temple University, headed south for winter break. However, it was not sun and surf he was seeking, but slush and ice.

Beginning in late December, Sanders and colleagues from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in Woods Hole, MA, embarked on a two-month trip to Antarctica aboard an ice-breaking research vessel to study microorganisms and retrieve samples to analyze back in their laboratories. The National Science Foundation's "Life in Extreme Environments" (LExEn) program funded the work.

"The data we gathered, plus the DNA samples and the live cultures we brought back, will be the basis of research for several years," says Sanders. "We're using the samples for molecular analysis and comparison, and to study the systematics of protists, which are microscopic algae and protozoa; namely, how they're related and how they evolved, and their ecology--what temperatures they live in, what they eat, how they affect their prey populations."

By studying organisms that live in thermal vents and in areas such as the Arctic and Antarctic, according to Sanders, scientists can gain greater insight into how they survive in such hostile locales.

"This project, like others supported by the LExEn program, may have tie-ins with the recent reports of fossilized microbes on meteors from Mars," he says. "If there were life on other planets, it would have to be adapted to an extreme environment. Our work will contribute to understanding biology at the limits of life."

Sailing aboard the icebreaker Nathaniel B. Palmer, the researchers collected hundreds of samples from the sediment along the bottom of the ocean, four kilometers below, and from the water. In addition to these shipboard collections, they frequently disembarked to gather samples from the ice, which was thick enough to walk on. They collected ice samples, which they thawed and examined for microorganisms, and started cultures of living protists to bring back to their labs.

The areas with the greatest densities and diversity of protists were pockets of slush and water in the ice with a seep hole to the ocean water below. The scientists scanned the ice for cracks and areas with raised terrain, indicating where floes had crashed together and slush pockets might be.

While most of his time was spent working, Sanders was able to leave the ship, walk around on the ice, and enjoy the "desolate but beautiful" view. Curious penguins would "walk right up to see what you were doing," he says. "You really felt like you were in a unique place in the world that not many people had been to.

"After all that it was lab work on the ship," he continues. "Because we'd be fast in the ice when the other scientists were taking the ice cores, we'd be steady--we could use molecular techniques that are not usually easy to use on a ship, such as pouring gels that need to harden."

Given its isolation and hostile conditions, Antarctica garners a surprising amount of attention from researchers. On the same trip with Sanders, a separate group was examining the ice itself to measure its strength and to determine how much light penetrates it and how much is reflected; others were taking samples to investigate the roles of different microorganisms and viruses in the area's ecology.

Sanders will travel to Woods Hole this summer to work with his fellow researchers on the samples they brought back, and he believes the work will lead to several papers. In addition, he hopes to return to Antarctica someday.

"It's an experience where all you're concerned with is your research, because you can devote all your time to it," Sanders says. "You don't have phone calls or meetings. It's the focus of your day from the time you get up to the time you go to bed. You can accomplish quite a bit of work. That's the biggest difference between researching there and here."

Sanders, a resident of Wyndmoor, PA, has taught at Temple for the last three years. He earned his bachelor's degree at the University of Virginia, his master's at the University of Maine, and his Ph.D. at the University of Georgia.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Temple University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Temple University. "Seeking Life At Its Limits Leads To Antarctica." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 April 1999. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/04/990426063218.htm>.
Temple University. (1999, April 26). Seeking Life At Its Limits Leads To Antarctica. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/04/990426063218.htm
Temple University. "Seeking Life At Its Limits Leads To Antarctica." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/04/990426063218.htm (accessed October 30, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Galapagos Tortoises Bounce Back, But Ecosystem Lags

Galapagos Tortoises Bounce Back, But Ecosystem Lags

Newsy (Oct. 29, 2014) The Galapagos tortoise has made a stupendous recovery from the brink of extinction to a population of more than 1,000. But it still faces threats. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

Obama: The US Will Not 'run and Hide' From Ebola

AP (Oct. 29, 2014) Surrounded by health care workers in the White House East Room, President Barack Obama said the U.S. will likely see additional Ebola cases in the weeks ahead. But he said the nation can't seal itself off in the fight against the disease. (Oct. 29) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Oatmeal Healthy Recipes and Benefits

Oatmeal Healthy Recipes and Benefits

Buzz60 (Oct. 29, 2014) Oatmeal is a fantastic way to start your day. Whichever way you prepare them, oats provide your body with many health benefits. In celebration of National Oatmeal Day, Krystin Goodwin (@krystingoodwin) has a few recipe ideas, and tips on how to kickstart your day with this wholesome snack! Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
GoPro Video Gives a Lion's-Eye View of The Hunt

GoPro Video Gives a Lion's-Eye View of The Hunt

Buzz60 (Oct. 29, 2014) If you’ve ever wondered what getting takeout looks like for lions in Africa, the GoPro video from Lion Whisperer Kevin Richardson will give you a lion’s-eye view of the hunt. Jen Markham has more. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins