Project leader: Stephen Archer

How long it has been running: 3 seasons

How many person days total have been devoted to it: 38

History of the project:

Two preliminary visits to Bratina were conducted during the 01/02 and 05/06 seasons by Prof. Cary, allowing the collection of valuable samples to develop the hypothesis put down in the existing projects. Additionally through collaboration with NIWA researchers a set of unique samples were taken during the winter freeze-up in the 07-08 extended season by Hawes and co-workers which are currently being analysed as part of the ongoing Bratina Island Project. The above projects led to the creation of my project the "Characterization of the bacterioplankton communities in the melt-water ponds of Bratina Island, Victoria Land, Antarctica" (project K160) which gained funding and logistical support from Antarctica New Zealand for the 09-10 seasons. This was the first official Bratina Island pond project conducted under ICTAR but will certainly not be the last. Funding was gained for the 11/12 and 12/13 seasons through the Antarctica New Zealand Doctoral scholarship to Stephen Archer. The 11/12 season included the collection of 150 water column samples as well as numerous mat and sediment samples.

This project involves two major projects: Firstly, the investigation of the microbial community structure and geochemical drivers within and between meltwater ponds on the McMurdo Ice shelf and Antarctic continent during the different seasonal phases of the ponds. Additionally we hope to examine the metabolic functioning and adaptations that allow microbial communities to thrive under these extreme conditions. Secondly, to use molecular techniques and artificial systems to identify the past and future impacts humans have had/are having to the Antarctic environment and to model potential biological changes that will be caused by global warming. Overall the combined results of these projects should help to describe these valuable scientific resources and also to develop environmental protection guidelines for studying the ponds in the future.

Future of the project:

Through a collaboration with K081 (the Gateway Antarctica pond project) I will be able to expand my study of Antarctic ponds out of Bratina Island to the ponds found in the mouth of the Miers Valley (continental Antarctica) as well as to a selection of Cryoconites (small ponds formed across the surface of a glacier separated from the surface with an ice cap). A massive legacy of data will be collected from this season however my hope is in the future to collect pond samples from even more isolated and pristine locations across the continent.

A list of researchers involved:

Dr Ian Hawes and Dr Karl Safi for collecting extended season samples and ongoing support
Stephen Archer, Prof. S. Craig Cary, Asso. Prof. Ian McDonald (09/10 season)
Stephen Archer, Prof. Ian McDonald, Sean Waters (11/12 season)
Stephen Archer, Dr Jenny Webster-Brown, Hana Christenson (12/13 season)

Countless others from the Thermophile Research Unit (University of Waikato) have helped in various ways.

Bratina Is. Ponds Partners