Earth and Ecosystems Research Programs

CEMP: Community Environmental Monitoring Program

The Community Environmental Monitoring Program (CEMP) is a network of 29 monitoring stations located in communities surrounding and downwind of the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), formerly the Nevada Test Site (NTS), that monitor the airborne environment for manmade radioactivity that could result from NNSS activities. The CEMP is a joint effort between the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration Nevada Site Office (NNSA/NSO), and the Desert Research Institute (DRI) of the Nevada System of Higher Education. One of the unique aspects of the program is that the CEMP provides a hands-on role for community members in station operation and data

International Polar Year Program: Bacterioplankton genomic adaptations to Antarctic winter

The international polar year (IPY) is a celebration of the 50 year anniversary of the International Geophysical year that was held in 1957-58 which marked the beginning of international science in earnest in the Antarctic. Planktonic organisms in Antarctic waters experience some of the most dramatic seasonal changes in the world’s oceans as a result of sea ice formation, melting, and dramatic variation in solar irradiance, and in the Antarctic Peninsula, are experiencing one of the most rapid rates of climate warming on Earth, with an increase of 5°C in the mean winter temperature over the last 50 years.

Science Program

Murray and colleagues Hugh Ducklow, and Joe Grzymski have been supported by the NSF Office of Polar Programs, IPY research program to study bacterioplankton genomics and ecology in wintertime marine waters off Palmer Station, located on the Antarctic Peninsula. The ultimate goal of the study is to shed light upon the genomic adaptations in Antarctic bacterioplankton (both planktonic archaea and bacteria) that have led to their success in the persistently cold, ice-covered, dark, winter waters of the Southern Ocean. Through an award from the DOE, Community Sequencing Program, two metagenomic libraries and several ribosomal RNA gene libraries are currently being sequenced to reveal the differences between austral winter and summer bacterioplankton.

Southern Ocean GLOBEC Synthesis and Modeling

This collaborative study between DRI (Chris Fritsen), the University of California, Santa Barbara (Langdon Quetin and Robin Ross), and the University of California, San Diego (Maria Vernet) will examine the relationship between sea ice extent along the Antarctic Peninsula and the life history of krill (Euphausia superba), by developing, refining, and linking diagnostic datasets and models of phytoplankton decreases in the fall, phytoplankton biomass incorporation into sea ice, sea ice growth dynamics, sea ice algal production and biomass accumulation, and larval krill energetics, condition, and survival.

Krill is a key species in the food web of the Southern Ocean ecosystem, and one that is intricately involved with seasonal sea ice dynamics. Results from the Southern Ocean experiment of the Global Ocean Ecosystems Dynamics program (SO GLOBEC) field work as well as historical information on sea ice dynamics and krill recruitment suggest a shift in the paradigm that all pack ice is equally good krill habitat.

SO GLOBEC is a multidisciplinary effort focused on understanding the physical and biological factors that influence growth, reproduction, recruitment and survival of Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba). The program uses a multi-trophic level approach that includes the predators and competitors of Antarctic krill, represented by other zooplankton, fish, penguins, seals, and cetaceans. It is currently in a synthesis and modeling phase. This collaborative project is concerned with the lower trophic levels, and will be integrated with other synthesis and modeling studies that deal with grazers, predators, and other higher trophic levels.