2008 Field Season
This multi-investigator project proposed to study lakes within the Taylor Valley during the transition to polar night to test the overarching hypothesis that the onset of darkness induces a cascade of physiological changes that alters the functional roles of autotrophic and heterotrophic microplankton within the lakes. The overarching hypothesis of this project was: Polar night induces a cascade of physiological changes that alters the functional role of autotrophic and heterotrophic microplankton within the lakes. Work in the Morgan-Kiss laboratory specifically addressed two sub-hypotheses: Functional downregulation of the photochemical apparatus during the summer-winter transition is integral to the overwintering strategy of phytoplankton; the photosynthetic process will be structurally altered at the level of gene expression in phototrophic communities during the winter-summer transition.(for complete details see: http://openwetware.org/wiki/IPY)
2010 Field Season
In 2010, our laboratory focused on gaining a better understanding of the diversity and activity of autotrophic communities residing in three of the Taylor Dry Valley lakes (Lakes Bonney, Frxyell and Vanda). Experiments in the field included collection of lake water for molecular analyses as well as enzymatic assays, as well as setting up enrichments cultures for isolating new microorganisms adapted to different nutritional requirements. Our hypotheses for this project are: Lake-specific variations in abiotic factor(s) control distribution and functional gene expression of key phototrophic protists; Energy/carbon acquisition in dry valley lake phototrophic protists is adapted to lake-specific variations in environmental niche. .
2011 Field Season
In 2011, the Team Protist focused on objectives related to a 5-year project to understand how abiotic factors influence protist trophic modes in three major McMurdo Dry Valley lakes: Lakes Bonney, Fryxell and Vanda. This season we focused on tracking activities of opposing enzymes in the carbon cycle (carbon fixation and carbon breakdown) which serve as proxies for major pathways catalyzed by photosynthetic and predatory protists. We also cultivated a number of new protist species. This field season is published as a video in the Journal of Visualized Experiments.