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Lake Vida Expedition Image 5
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Lake Vida Expedition (Image 5)

July 3, 2012
Scientist Hilary Dugan, a Ph.D. student with Peter Doran at the University of Illinois, Chicago, photographs a section of ice core from Lake Vida in a freezer room at minus 20 degrees Celsius. The ice cores, which also contain sediments, will be analyzed to learn more about the history and chemistry of the lake over time. Lake Vida is located in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Dugan was part of the team on the National Science Foundation-supported 2011 Lake Vida expedition, the purpose of which was to access the isolated and ice-bound brine ecosystem and underlying sediments in this unusual, mostly frozen lake--one of the highest and coldest of the McMurdo Dry Valleys. The expedition focused on understanding the nature of this enigmatic, cryogenic system that supports a living microbial community at very low temperatures (minus 13 degrees Celsius; 7 degrees Fahrenheit) and in a highly concentrated brine (seven times the salinity of seawater). This research has implications for other isolated systems including subglacial lakes, icy planets and moons in the solar system. The research was supported by NSF grants ANT 07-39681 and ANT 07-39698 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Alison Murray, a molecular ecologist with the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nev., was principal investigator. Credit: Peter Rejcek


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