New blog chronicles science on – and under – ice

Deep Sea and Polar Biology, a new blog by a pair of Oregon State University scientists, chronicles their work trying to understand the role those extreme environments play in storing and releasing carbon into the Earth’s atmosphere.

The writers – post-doctoral scholar Andrew Thurber and graduate student Rory Welch – are writing and posting terrific photographs of the polar landscape and their under-ice dives in Antarctica, near the McMurdo Research Station, located on the southern tip of Ross Island. They’re also running an occasional “ask a scientist” feature for students around the country who want to learn more about their work.

Thurber,  a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Scholar based in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University, is studying the trophic linkages between microbes and metazoans in marine habitats and how that impacts ecosystem function, or how animals that eat bacteria can impact how the world works.

Welch, a graduate student in the Microbiology department at Oregon State University, is studying an unusual group of predatory bacteria, Bacteriovorax, that prey exclusively on other gram negative bacteria.

In the introduction to their blog, they write:

“Most of the world experiences drastic seasonal variation in the amount of food that is available throughout the year. In deep-sea habitats as well as the poles a single or sometimes few pulses of food provide nourishment for the entire year. Now you may wonder what that means to you? Why does it matter what happens in the deep, dark ocean or far away in a frozen waste land? The answer is that these communities decide how much of the carbon that we are putting into the atmosphere stays in the ocean, only to be released again and how much is buried for geologic time periods (meaning largely beyond the age of humans). However, we know very little about how the biology of how these habitats actually function, what makes them decide whether they break down and release the carbon and nitrogen or bury for, as far as humans are concerned, ever? Quite simply, that is the goal of this research.”

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