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.
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.