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MSU

Current Funded Research Projects

West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide ice core. 2009-2012. Funded by National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs.

WISSARD (Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling). 2009-2013.  Funded by National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs.

Astrobiology of Icy Worlds: Habitability, Survivability, and Detectability. 2008-2012. Funded by NASA Astrobiology Institute.

MCM III -- The Role of Resource Legacy on Contemporary Linkages Between Biodiversity and Ecosystem Processes in a Cold Desert Ecosystem: The McMurdo Dry Valley LTER Program.  2005-2011. Funded by National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs.


Post-Doc Research Projects

Dr. Juliana D'Andrilli:
Dissolved Carbon and biological marker characterization in West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide ice cores (2010-present):
West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide is a U.S. deep ice coring project funded by the NSF as a component of the larger WAISCORES initiative.  The goal of WAIS Divide is to collect a deep ice core from the flow divide in central West Antarctica in order to develop a unique series of interrelated climate, ice dynamics, and biologic records focused on understanding interactions among global Earth systems.  As part of this collaborative project to generate high-resolution chemical and biological records from the WAIS Divide ice core, postdoctoral researcher Dr. Juliana D’Andrilli is working with a flow cytometer-based analytical system, a deep UV-laser TUBS spectrofluorimeter, and a Fluoromax -4 spectrofluorimeter to detect and fully characterize dissolved organic carbon and biological markers in ice cores.   

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs.

Dr. Heather Adams:
Microbial life in seasonally ice covered lakes in Barrow, Alaska (2010-present):
Postdoctoral researcher Dr. Heather Adams is working on a project in Barrow, Alaska, examining microbial life in seasonally ice covered lakes.  She is working with collaborators from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and other universities to characterize life in icy habitats with the goal of looking for life in other icy worlds such as the icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn.  Lake ice, water, and sediment physical and chemical characteristics are measured, as is the activity and community composition of the microbes in all three portions of the lake habitat.

This project is funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI).
 

Graduate Student Research Projects

Marie Sabacka, PhD Candidate:
Integrated biodiversity and stoichiometry across McMurdo Dry Valleys landscape (2005-present):
The patterns and mechanisms of microbial distribution is one of the most important questions in modern ecological research and the low diversity ecosystems of McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica (MCM) allows us to answer this question in a unique way. Patterns of changing community composition across a landscape can offer valuable clues to relative influence of dispersal limitation, environmental heterogeneity, and environmental and evolutionary change in shaping the structure of ecological communities. To test our hypothesis microbial (with focus on cyanobacteria) community composition in many diverse habitats and geographically isolated areas in MCM will be investigate using wide variety of techniques ranging from phenotypical fingerprinting to the use of high resolution genetic markers. Aeolian sediment traps, wind erosion flux sensors, data collected from a network of existing meteorological stations and a colonization experiment will be used for assessing the role of wind as a factor responsible for dispersal of microorganisms (cyanobacteria) in MCM. This project plan to closely cooperate with an ongoing NSF-funded Long Term Ecological Research project, which allows us to build upon their data set in a synergistic manner.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs.

Tristy Vick, PhD Student:
Geomicrobiology of Subglacial Antarctic Subglacial Environments (GBASE) (2010-present):

As part of the GBASE component of the WISSARD (Whillians Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling) project, Tristy will be studying the compositions and roles of subglacial microbial assemblages living 800 meters beneath the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Currently, research is focused on developing and testing methodology for sub-glacial clean access including decontamination of instrument surfaces and cleaning of bore-hole water.

The WISSARD project is funded by the NSF Office of Polar Programs through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, NOAA, NASA, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Microbial Assemblages During the Polar Night Transition (2008-present):
The Microbial Inventory Research Across Diverse Aquatic Long Term Ecological Research Sites (MIRADA LTERs; http://amarallab.mbl.edu/mirada/mirada.html) sampled MCM LTER lakes at two time points (one before, and one after the sunset).  The project then implemented massively-parallel, 454-based rRNA gene tag sequencing to sample archaeal, bacterial, and eukaryal microbial assemblages.  Tristy is working with the MIRADA project to analyze these data and determine whether structural changes manifest in the MCM lake microbial assemblages during the polar night transition.

This project is funded by a NSF IPY grant from the Office of Polar Programs and by the NSF through the LTER network.

Alex Michaud, PhD Student:
Ice nucleation bacteria in hailstones (2010-present):
The discovery of ice nucleation active bacteria has had broader implications than previously realized.  Study of these bacteria has been confined to snow and rain, but a recent hailstorm in Bozeman has stimulated the hypothesis that they may play a role in nucleating hailstones.  Graduate student Alex Michaud is conducting investigations on this hypothesis, which will help in further understanding of the role of hailstones in the world’s hydrologic cycle. 

Work on this project is being conducted in MSU's Subzero Science and Engineering Facility.

This project is funded by an NSF IGERT Fellowship.

Cyanobacteria in the McMurdo Dry Valleys (2009-present):
The McMurdo Dry Valleys (MCM) have been the focus of study for many years as a model system for understanding ecosystem dynamics and life at the extremes.  The study of Cyanobacteria has revealed insight to these questions and continues to be valuable for investigation, as Cyanobacteria occur in very diverse ecological niches.  Graduate student Alex Michaud is conducting a study that probes the diversity of Cyanobacteria present at several habitats throughout the cold, dry habitat of Taylor Valley, Antarctica.  Using the 16S rRNA gene sequence and the 16S-23S internal transcribed spacer (ITS), Alex compares the diversity of genera detected using each of these phylogenetic markers, and draws conclusions regarding dispersal and distribution of Cyanobacteria in Taylor Valley.  A solid understand of how Cyanobacteria disperse will lend insight into how bacteria are transported in the Dry Valleys of Antarctica.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs, and an NSF IGERT Fellowship.

Pamela Santibáñez Ávila, PhD Student (Fulbright- CONICYT Scholarship from Chile):
Biological measurements in West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide ice core (2010-present):
West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide is a U.S. deep ice coring project funded by the NSF as a component of the larger WAISCORES initiative.  WAIS Divide is collecting a deep ice core from the flow divide in central West Antarctica in order to develop a unique series of interrelated climate, ice dynamics, and biologic records focused on understanding interactions among global Earth systems during the Last Deglaciation (LD).  As part of this collaborative project to generate high-resolution chemical and biological records from the WAIS Divide ice core, Pamela will work with a Microcyte flow cytometer, epifluorescence microscopy and scanning electron microscopy to detect and determine bacterial density and viability, and characterize biological markers in ice cores.   Biological data can provide new, novel and corroborative information that will allow a full interpretation and reconstruction of paleoclimate and paleoatmospheric composition in ice-cores from cold and temperate glaciers.

This project is funded by the National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs.

She is also collaborating on a project in Barrow, Alaska. This project examines microbial life in seasonally ice covered lakes and is funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI).


Undergraduate Student Research Projects

Courtney Thurner, Undergradute student in Biotechnology and Animal Systems:
Dark carbon fixation in Lake Fryxell, a permanently ice-covered Antarctic lake (2010):
Carbon fixation in dark conditions has been observed in numerous aquatic ecosystems, including Lake Fryxell in the Taylor Valley, Antarctica. It is unclear whether chemolithoautotrophic organisms primarily carry out the observed dark carbon fixation, or whether phototrophic organisms displaying “light-dependent dark carbon fixation” are responsible. Graduate student Tristy Vick, and undergraduate student Courtney Thurner, are using PCR techniques to determine whether non-photosynthetic microorganisms in Lake Fryxell possess the genes necessary to perform dark carbon fixation chemolithoautotrophically via the reverse TCA cycle.  Additionally, they plan to carry out microautoradiography (MAR) on samples collected from Lake Fryxell and incubated with 14C-bicarbonate in order to microscopically differentiate between the types of organisms (smaller, bacterial cells vs. larger, phytoplankton cells) that are responsible for dark carbon fixation in Lake Fryxell.  

This project is funded by the International Polar Year (IPY) grant from the National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs.
 

Research In the News

February 2011.  "Antarctic researchers gathered at MSU to test equipment for pioneering work."
http://www.montana.edu/cpa/news/nwview.php?article=9524&origin=homepage

November 2010. "Struck by hailstones, MSU grad student peers inside to learn their secrets."
http://www.montana.edu/cpa/news/nwview.php?article=9039

November 2009.  "Massive Antarctic project takes MSU to one of Earth's final frontiers."
http://www.montana.edu/cpa/news/nwview.php?article=7633

October 2008. "Biological Pulse: WAIS Divide project searches for life in the ice."
http://antarcticsun.usap.gov/science/contenthandler.cfm?id=1591

March 2008. "Antarctica's coldest, darkest season draws Montana State University researchers."
http://www.bio-medicine.org/biology-news-1/Antarcticas-coldest--darkest-season-draws-Montana-State-University-researchers-2446-1/

November 2007. "In the Cold of the Night: Science team to extend seasonal work until April to study lake ecosystem in the McMurdo Dry Valleys."
http://antarcticsun.usap.gov/science/contenthandler.cfm?id=1283

Febraury 2006.  "Eighty below and loving it: Montana State University scientists to get new cold lab."
http://www.montana.edu/cpa/news/nwview.php?article=3377
 

Past Funded Research Projects

International Polar Year 2007-2008: Polar Night Project. Funded by National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs.

ENDURANCE (Environmentally Non-Disturbing Under-ice Robotic ANtarctic Explorer). 2008. Funded by NASA, Astrobiology Science and Technology for Exploring Planets Program.

MSU SubZero Science and Engineering Research Facility. 2006-2008. Funded by the Murdock Charitable Trust.

MSU SubZero Science and Engineering Research Facility. 2006-2008. Funded by the National Science Foundation – Major Research Instrumentation program.

Paleorecords of biotic and abiotic particles in polar ice cores.  2005-2008. Funded by National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs.

Nuclear-Magnetic Resonance and Electrical Measurements of Unfrozen Water in Mars-Analog Materials: Implications for Habitability at Subfreezing Temperatures on Mars. 2005-2007. Funded by NASA, Exobiology Program.

The McMurdo Dry Valley Lakes Microbial Observatory - Microbial Diversity and Function in the Permanently Ice-Covered Lakes of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. 2003-2007. Funded by the National Science Foundation, Division of Molecular and Cell Biology.

Laboratory Experiments and Mathematical Modeling of a Hydrocarbon Spill on the ice cover of Lake Fryxell, Antarctica.  2004-2005 season plus one year no-cost extension. Supplemental SGER to MCM LTER II.

MCM II--The Role of Natural Legacy on Ecosystem Function and Structure in  a Polar Desert: The McMurdo Dry Valley LTER. 1999-2005.  Funded by National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs.

Geomicrobiology of Vostok Ice: Implications for Life in Lake Vostok. 2001-2004. Funded by National Science Foundation, Life in Extreme Environments (LExEN).

The Biogeochemistry of Dimethylsulfide (DMS) and Related compounds in a Chemically Stratified Antarctic Lake. 1999-2002Funded by National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs.

Microbial Life within the Extreme Environment Posed by Permanent Antarctic Lake Ice. 1998-2001Funded by National Science Foundation, Life in Extreme Environments (LExEN).

Teachers Experiencing Antarctica (Elissa Elliot): Microbial Life with the Extreme Environment Posed by Permanent Antarctic Lake Ice. 1998. Funded by National Science Foundation, TEA.

Teachers Experiencing Antarctica (Valerie Sloan): The Biogeochemistry of Dimethylsulfide (DMS) and Related compounds in a Chemically Stratified Antarctic Lake. 1999. Funded by National Science Foundation, TEA.

MCM I--McMurdo Dry Valleys: A Cold Desert Ecosystem. 1993-1999.  Funded by National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs.

National Science Foundation Research for Undergraduate Education (RUE) supplemental award to Biogeochemistry of DMS and related sulfur compounds in a Chemically Stratified Antarctic Lake. 1999.

Bacterial Dynamics Under Antarctic Lake Ice. 1996-1999.  Funded by Montana Space Grant Consortium Graduate Student Award (Christina Takacs).

National Science Foundation Research for Undergraduate (RUE) supplemental award to Antarctic Dry Valleys: A Cold Desert Ecosystem. 1997.

National Science Foundation Research for Undergraduate Education (RUE) supplemental award to Antarctic Lake Ice Microbial Consortia: Origin, Distribution, and Growth Physiology, 1997.

Antarctic Lake Ice Microbial Consortia: Origin, Distribution, and Growth Physiology. 1995-1998. National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs.

National Science Foundation Research for Undergraduate Education (RUE) supplemental award to Biogeochemistry of Nitrogen in a Highly Stratified, Permanently Ice-Covered Antarctic Lake. 1993.

National Science Foundation Research Education for Undergraduate Education (RUE) supplemental award to Antarctic Dry Valleys: A Cold Desert Ecosystem, 1993.

Biogeochemistry of Nitrogen in a Highly Stratified, Permanently Ice-Covered Antarctic Lake. 1992-1995. National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs.

Nuisance Algal Blooms in the Colstrip Surge Pond: Causes and Consequences, 1992-1993. Funded by Montana Power Company.

Photoadaptation by Phytoplankton in Permanently Ice-Covered Antarctic Lakes: Response to a Non-Turbulent Environment. 1989-1992. Funded by National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs.

Impact of Sewage Effluent and Survival of Pathogenic Organisms in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. 1991-1992. Funded by National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs.

Influence of Phosphorus and Other Environmental Parameters on Toxin Production by the Blue-Green Alga Anabaena flos-aquae. 1991. Funded by the Soap and Detergent Association and Procter and Gamble.

The Effects of Nutrient Enrichment on Benthic Algae and Young-of-the-Year Salmonid Production in the Clark Fork River. 1991. Funded by the Soap and Detergent Association and Stone Container Company.

Nutrient Dynamics and Attached Algal Growth in a Large River, 1990. Funded by The Soap and Detergent Association, Procter and Gamble and Stone Container Company.

Persistence, Distribution and Environmental Impact of Enteric Bacteria in Antarctic Seawater. 1990. Funded by National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs.

Quantitative Estimation of the Effects of Operation of Libby and Hungary Horse Dams on the Reservoirs Fisheries. 1988-1989. Funded by Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Factors Regulating Nuisance and Potentially Toxic Blue-Green Algal Blooms in a Through-Flow Ecosystem. 1986. Funded by Montana State Water Resources Research Center.

Response of Aquatic Nitrogen Cycling and Plankton Productivity to Acidification. 1985-1988. College of Graduate Studies, Montana State University, Faculty Creativity Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Regulation of Nitrogen Fixation by Organic Matter in Aquatic Ecosystems. 1987-1990. Funded by Procter and Gamble.

A Laboratory and Field Study of the Interaction of Microalgae and Bacteria in Aquatic Biofilms. 1985-1986.  National Science Foundation, Ecology Program.

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