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Rapid Response Research: Accessing New Sea Ice in an Arctic Winter Polynya


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Fieldwork / Study

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Greenland, Mid-East
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Geolocation is 74.293667, -19.787878

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Science / project summary
Opportunities to sample new sea ice as it is forming in a winter polynya are rare. The PI proposes to mobilize rapidly in order to join an international expedition to an Arctic winter polynya off the NE coast of Greenland and sample new sea ice to evaluate aspects of its microbial habitability. Sampling new sea ice from a naturally open body of coastal water, like a polynya, represents a superior sampling opportunity than afforded by other Arctic coastlines where new ice formation in winter is dependent on the formation of leads, which can be unpredictable and inaccessible depending on pressure-ridging, weather and other conditions. With the requested funds, the PI will join a team of interdisciplinary sea-ice experts gathering in Iceland in March 2012 at the invitation of Søren Rysgaard, who leads the Greenland Climate Research Center (GCRC) in Nuuk, Greenland, and holds the Canadian Excellence Research Chair (CERC) in Arctic Geomicrobiology and Climate Change. The team will then deploy from Iceland to Daneborg, Greenland (74°18’N) for on-site work during the period of March 12–April 1, 2012. All major logistical needs will be covered by Rysgaard through the GCRC and CERC. Working from the research station at Daneborg, the PI will sample new sea ice, including its surface features of expelled brine, frost flowers and snow accumulations, as the ice forms and matures in the nearby coastal winter polynya. The data set collected (temperature, salinity, pH, total bacterial and viral abundance, dissolved and particulate extracellular polysaccharide substances, and microbial community composition) will be unique in contributing to a temporal understanding of microbial life in these extreme environments and will add significantly to the overall database which, to date, has derived mainly from smaller sample sets collected near Barrow, Alaska, during the winters of 2010 and 2011. Working with the larger expedition team ensures the availability of a sound environmental context for the microbial results.