This CAREER proposal will support an early career female PI to establish an integrated research and education program in the fields of polar biology and environmental microbiology, focusing on single-celled eukaryotes (protists) in high latitude ice-covered Antarctic lakes systems. Protists play important roles in energy flow and material cycling, and act as both primary producers (fixing inorganic carbon by photosynthesis) and consumers (preying on bacteria by phagotrophic digestion). The McMurdo Dry Valleys (MDV) located in Victoria Land, Antarctica, harbor microbial communities which are isolated in the unique aquatic ecosystem of perennially ice-capped lakes. The lakes support exclusively microbial consortia in chemically stratified water columns that are not influenced by seasonal mixing, allochthonous inputs, or direct human impact. This project will exploit permanently stratified biogeochemistry that is unique across the water columns of several MDV lakes to address gaps in our understanding of protist trophic function in aquatic food webs. The proposed research will examine (1) the impact of permanent biogeochemical gradients on protist trophic strategy, (2) the effect of major abiotic drivers (light and nutrients) on the distribution of two key mixotrophic and photoautotrophic protist species, and (3) the effect of episodic nutrient pulses on mixotroph communities in high latitude (ultraoligotrophic) MDV lakes versus low latitude (eutrophic) watersheds. The project will impact the fields of microbial ecology and environmental microbiology by combining results from field, laboratory and in situ incubation studies to synthesize new models for the protist trophic roles in the aquatic food web. The research component of this proposed project will be tightly integrated with the development of two new education activities designed to exploit the inherent excitement associated with polar biological research. The educational objectives are: 1) to establish a teaching module in polar biology in a core undergraduate course for microbiology majors; 2) to develop an instructional module to engage middle school girls in STEM disciplines. Undergraduates and middle school girls will also work with a doctoral student on his experiments in local Ohio watersheds.
Publications from this award: Xu Y., Vick-Majors T., Morgan-Kiss R., Priscu J.C., Amaral-Zettler L. (2014) Ciliate biodiversity and novel taxa in lakes of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Biological Bulletin 227:175-190. Dolhi J. M.**, Teufel A. G.**, Kong W.*** Morgan‐Kiss, R. M. ¥ (2015). Diversity and spatial distribution of autotrophic communities within and between ice‐covered Antarctic lakes (McMurdo Dry Valleys). Limnology and Oceanography 60: 977-991. Li W.**, Podar, M., Morgan-Kiss R.M. (2016) Ultrastructural and single-cell-level characterization reveals metabolic versatility in a microbial eukaryote community from an ice-covered Antarctic lake. Applied Environmental Microbiology 82: 3659-3670. [3.67] Cover Article Li J., Kong W., Ahang G., Guoxia G., Morgan-Kiss R.M. (2016) Diversity and succession of autotrophic microbial community in high-elevation soils along deglaciation chronosequence. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 92: fiw160 Morgan‐Kiss R.M. , Lizotte M.P., Kong W.***, Priscu J.C. (2016) Photoadaptation to the polar night by phytoplankton in a permanently ice‐covered Antarctic lake. Limnology and Oceanography. 61:3-13. Bowman J.S., Vick-Majors T.J., Morgan-Kiss R.M., Takacs-Vesbach C., Ducklow H.W., Priscu J.C. (2016) Microbial community dynamics in two polar extremes: the lakes of the McMurdo Dry Valleys and the West Antarctic Peninsula marine ecosystems. Bioscience – invited series of paper for special issue. 66: 829-847 Obryk M.K., Doran P.T., Friedlaender A.S., Gooseff M.N., Li W.**, Morgan-Kiss R.M., Priscu J.C., Schofield O., Stammerjohn S.E., Steinberg D.K., Ducklow H.W. (2016) Responses of Antarctic marine and freshwater ecosystems to changing ice conditions. Bioscience – invited series of paper for special issue. 66: 864-879 Teufel A.G.**, Li W.**, Kiss A.J., Morgan-Kiss R.M. (2016) Impact of nitrogen and phosphorus on phytoplankton production and bacterial community structure in two stratified Antarctic lakes: a bioassay approach. Polar Biology. 40: 1007-1022 Raymond J., Morgan-Kiss R.M. (2017) Multiple ice-binding proteins of probably prokaryotic origin in an Antarctic lake alga, Chlamydomonas sp. ICE-MDV (Chlorophyceae). Journal of Phycology. 53: 848-854 Thompson L.R., Sanders J.G., McDonald D., Amir A., Ladau J., Locey K.J., Prill R.J., Tripathi A., Gibbons S.M., Ackermann G., Navas-Molina J.A. & The Earth Microbiome Consortium. (2017) A communal catalogue reveals Earth’s multiscale microbial diversity. Nature. 551: 457-463 [40.14] Li W.**, Dolhi J.M.**, (co-first authors), Cariani Z.**, Morgan-Kiss R.M. (2019) Drivers of protistan community autotrophy and heterotrophy in chemically stratified Antarctic lakes. Aquatic Microbial Ecology. 82:225-239 Li W.**, Morgan-Kiss R.M.¥ (2019) Influence of environmental drivers and potential interactions on the distribution of microbial communities from three permanently stratified Antarctic lakes. Frontiers in Microbiology Special Issue: Digitizing the Cryosphere. 10, article 1067. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2019.01067