Geochemistry and Microbiology of the Extreme Aquatic Environment in Lake Vida, East Antarctica

112612-microbes-lakevidaThis week a pioneering study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) and co-authored by Dr. Alison Murray and Dr. Christian Fritsen of Nevada’s Desert Research Institute (DRI) reveals, for the first time, a viable community of bacteria that survives and ekes out a living in a dark, salty and subfreezing environment beneath nearly 20 meters of ice in one of Antarctica’s most isolated lakes.

Lake Vida III: Developing a comprehensive understanding of Lake Vida – from the past to the present – life, biogeochemical function, geochemical composition and paleohistory of its microbial inhabitants.

Lake Vida Findings Published in PNAS Early Edition, November 26, 2012

Lake Vida Expedition TeamMembers of the Lake Vida expedition team. [+]This week a pioneering study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) and co-authored by Dr. Alison Murray and Dr. Christian Fritsen of Nevada’s Desert Research Institute (DRI) reveals, for the first time, a viable community of bacteria that survives and ekes out a living in a dark, salty and subfreezing environment beneath nearly 20 meters of ice in one of Antarctica’s most isolated lakes. Read the full press announcement »

About Lake Vida

Lake Vida, in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of East Antarctica, is one of the largest lakes in the region. It was originally thought to be an ice block lake - frozen solid. However, in 1995, ground penetrating radar surveys revealed a very salty liquid layer (a brine) underlying a 20 m (66 foot) ice cover. This started a series of investigations on the history and physics behind the formation of this unusual lake, as well as on the potential for life in the brine, and how it survive

Bacterial cells inhabiting icy brine channels in Lake VidaBacterial cells inhabiting icy brine channels, Lake Vida. [+]Lake Vida is not a lake like those of Wisconsin or Michigan. Unlike those lakes, Vida has an ice cover year round. In fact, the ice cover is so thick that water trapped under the ice is completely isolated from other environments. In the summer, new water coming in from glacial streams cannot get under the ice and so it flows on top and freezes. This leads to a unique situation where a thick ice cover on Lake Vida requires occurrence of warm summers (and therefore more stream flow).

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