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Antarctic Ice-Covered Lakes: Oases in a Polar Desert

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Monday, October 28, 2019, 3 pm– 4 pm

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Environmental Engineering Graduate Seminar


Dr. Trista Vick-MajorsBiological Sciences , Michigan Tech



Most of the Antarctic continent is covered with ice, creating a surface environment that is relatively inhospitable to life. Under the East and West Antarctic Ice Sheets and in the ice-covered coastal valleys, however, life is protected from the UV-radiation, extreme cold, and low humidity found on the surface, making Antarctic subglacial and ice-capped lakes oases for microbial life. In recent decades, nearly 400 subglacial lakes have been discovered beneath the hundreds-to-thousands of meters thick ice sheets, and groundwater has been found to be widespread. The thick ice-covers and necessity of preventing forward contamination of subglacial environments during sample collection make accessing subglacial lakes logistically and technologically challenging; as a result, only two lakes (Whillans and Mercer Subglacial Lakes) have been directly accessed so far. Both host microbial life, but present widely different chemical compositions, providing an opportunity to expand our knowledge of the limits of life in the cryosphere.

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  • Angela Keranen

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