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Exploring Ecosystems Half a Mile Under Ice

Dr Jill Mikucki_exploring antarctica_science forumDr. Jill Mikucki, assistant professor of microbiology, will discuss her research in Antarctica at this week’s Science Forum Friday, Sept. 20.

Her topic: “Antarctica: Exploring Ecosystems Below Half a Mile of Ice,” will highlight her experiences as part of the Whillans Subglacial Access Research Drilling (WISSARD) team, which collected water and sediment samples from an subglacial lake in January; an exciting first in Antarctic exploration.

In her research, Dr. Mikucki looks at how the impact of microbial metabolism is detected on an ecosystem scale by studying the interactions between microbes and their environment. However, exploring microbial ecosystems in Antarctic subglacial environments requires drilling through hundreds of meters of ice and doing so in a clean way, in order to collect samples.

Because of their isolation and relatively simple food webs, subglacial environments serve as the “model” ecosystem to study microbially-mediated processes. These environments are an important, yet poorly understand part of the Earth’s system.

The UT Science Forum takes place every Friday at 12 p.m. in the Thompson-Boling Arena Cafe, Rooms C-D. The 40-minute presentation is followed by at Q&A.