Master project: Molecular characterization of marine microbes from King George Island, Antarctica


The elevated air temperatures, observed at King George Island (KGI), Antarctic Peninsula, have resulted in longer annual glacier melt periods accompanied by increased fresh water discharge volumes. Potter Cove is a shallow bay at the Southern side of KGI. Here, the strong input of sediment containing melt water changes surface seawater properties during summer, leading to shallow salinity stratification and strongly enhanced irradiance attenuation. These altered water properties will profoundly impact local pelagic ecosystems, taking into account all trophic levels. Yet they will primarily affect productivity and species composition of the primary producers, the phytoplankton. In order to fully understand the impact of climate change on marine phytoplankton communities around KGI, detailed information on species composition is required. However, little is known about the composition of phytoplankton communities in the Potter Cove area with respect to phytoflagellates in the smaller size ranges (< 2 µm, 2 – 20 µm), since these small cells are hard to identify with convential methods like microscopy. Only very recently, molecular tools have substantially increased our insight in marine micro-eukaryotic diversity, using the 18S rDNA marker. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) is a PCR based method that was introduced in field and experimental studies directed to prokaryotic microbial ecology. Nowadays, an increasing number of studies apply DGGE, supplemented with molecular fingerprints, to assess the shifts in marine eukaryotes in various environments. Only a limited number of studies however used DGGE to describe micro-eukaryotic diversity and succession at marine Antarctic sites.
In the proposed Master project, microbial diversity will be analysed based on a year-round sample set, taken at various locations in Potter Cove (2008/2009). Samples will be analysed using molecular approaches (as explained above). Diversity and species composition will be coupled to water column characteristics (salinity, sediment load, temperature, phytoplankton biomass), related with melt water input, as constantly monitored by our Argentinean colleagues.

The research (40 ECTS) will take place at both RuG and NIOO/CEME laboratories.

Starting date: spring 2010.

Supervision
Prof. Dr. A.G.J. Buma (contact for more information: Anita Buma)
A.M.T. Piquet (RUG)
Dr. H. Bolhuis (NIOO-CEME Yerseke)
Dr. E. Hernandez (Argentinean Antarctic Institute, Buenos Aires)
Willem Barentsz Poolinstituut

Bundeling van kennis, onderzoek en onderwijs over de Noord- en de Zuidpool

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