Microbial communities in sea ice

Microbial communities in sea ice

I have been in Daneborg participating in leg three of this year’s field campaign in the Arctic Science Partnership collaboration to study the microbial communities associated with spring sea ice and melt ponds using next generation DNA sequencing technologies.

The goal of this project is to identify changes in the communities of bacteria, archaea, ice algae, and other microbial eukaryotes in first year sea ice during the spring transition, as the surface melts and the ice drains.

Interactions between ice algae bacteria

With my collaborator Jody Deming at the University of Washington, we are interested in the biochemical interactions between bacteria and algae in the ice.

Specifically, we are investigating whether the production and consumption of compatible solutes -- chemicals that bacteria and algae use to protect against salt stress in the ice -- act synergistically between the two groups in a seasonal cycle.

Due to the decreasing presence of multi-year ice in the Arctic as a consequence of global warming, increasingly large areas of the Arctic will be covered with first year sea ice and Daneborg is an exciting High Arctic research platform to study the interactions among microbes in first year sea ice.

Improved methods

In previous Arctic campaigns in 2004 and 2007 aboard the Canadian icebreaker CCGS Amundsen, I was part of a project to investigate the microbial communities associated with autumn and winter sea ice using the available molecular biology tools of the time.

Those tools allowed us to do 'fingerprinting' of the microbial communities over time in the ice, and to get about 100 DNA sequence 'barcodes' from two of those communities. The barcode is a unique signature within each species' genome that distinguishes it from others. An example of a barcode might look like this: AACAATCTCCTAAACCTG.

With today's technology we will be able to get more than 10,000,000 barcodes from hundreds of samples of sea ice and melt ponds from Daneborg, allowing us to reconstruct the microbial communities to a very fine level.


Eric Collins, Assistant Professor, School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, University of Alaska Fairbanks

Contact: rec3141@gmail.com

Read more: http://www.reric.org/grimp/




Left: Assistant Professor, Eric Collins, taking ice cores from the sea ice to study algae, bacteria and archaeas within the sea ice. Photo: Peter Bondo Christensen.

Right: Eric Collins analyzing an ice core from Young Sound, Daneborg, North East Greenland during the comprehensive field campaign in the Arctic Science Partnership collaboration. Photo: Peter Bondo Christensen.



Above: Eric Collins has looked for organism associated with ice among many different places in the Arctic as here in melt ponds formed at the sea ice. Photo: Peter Bondo Christensen.