12/07/2012

Unlocking a Lake’s Bacterial Secrets, Beneath 20 Meters of Ice

Scanning electron micrograph of very small and numerous bacterial cells inhabiting icy brine channels in Antarctica's Lake Vida, which lies in the Victoria Valley, one of the northernmost of the Antarctic dry valleys. Image courtesy of Christian H. Fritsen, Desert Research Institute
Scanning electron micrograph of very small and numerous bacterial cells inhabiting icy brine channels in Antarctica’s Lake Vida, which lies in the Victoria Valley, one of the northernmost of the Antarctic dry valleys. Image courtesy of Christian H. Fritsen, Desert Research Institute

Lake Vida, in one of Antarctica’s dry valleys, was once thought to be frozen solid. In 1995, researchers discovered the lake wasn’t completely ice—inside an almost 20-meter-thick ice layer lay veins of super-salty water, sealed off from the rest of the world. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Alison Murray and colleagues describe a community of bacteria that survive in the dark, salty, sub-freezing waters of the lake.

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Allison Murray

Allison Murray is an associate research professor in the Division of Earth and Ecosystem Sciences at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada.

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About Charles Bergquist

As Science Friday’s director, Charles Bergquist channels the chaos of a live production studio into something sounding like a radio program. Favorite topics include planetary sciences, chemistry, materials, and shiny things with blinking lights.