Lake Vida Expedition Image 10
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Lake Vida Expedition (Image 10)

July 3, 2012
A microscope image of Lake Vida brine microbiota stained with a fluorescent dye that binds DNA. The cells fall into two size classes; the most abundant are very small, nearly at the limits of detection. This research was conducted as part of the 2010 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 in Antarctica. 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. This research was supported by National Science Foundation 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: Ema Kuhn, Desert Research Institute, Reno, Nev.

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