Automated biogeochemical sensing of icy ecosystems (resubmitted)

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bristol
Department Name: Geographical Sciences

Abstract

Icy ecosystems (e.g. glacier, snow, sea ice, frozen lakes) remain the least explored sector of the cold biosphere, yet are now known to be inhabited by significant populations of microorganisms. They are the closest models we have for habitats on other planets and may have been refuges for life during periods of extreme cold in Earth's history. Because of the extreme environmental conditions present (cold, desiccation, high radiation, high pressure and physical abrasion by meltwater/ice) few sensors are developed for these environments and most investigations to date have involved hand-sampling and laboratory analysis of samples. These rudimentary sampling methods yield only limited information and are inappropriate for investigating the more remote deep sub-surface environments, such as lakes beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet. Significant innovation in the field of chemical/biosensor development is essential for controls on microbial activity in icy environments to be understood, and in order to engage fully in the future exploration of Antarctic subglacial lakes and sub-ice water bodies on other planets (e.g. Mars, Jovian moons). The Principle Investigator has extensive experience in sensor deployment and biogeochemical monitoring in extreme cold environments, including the glacial field site, and will organize and lead a core team of experts to develop the first generation of chemical/biosensors for high resolution monitoring of icy ecosystems. The sensor testing site is a glacier, Engabreen (Norway), where environmental stresses common to a range of icy ecosystems are present. A unique aspect of this site is the exploitation of the Svartisen subglacial laboratory, where tunnels bored in bedrock beneath the glacier enable relatively straight-forward emplacement of sensors in the high stress subsurface environment. This work will provide a platform for the future development of a larger research group focused on biogeochemical sensing of the cryosphere and the acquisition of further funding from a variety of sources.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Chair of the SCAR ATHENA Expert Group (Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research) "Advancing TecHnologies for subglacial ExploratioN in Antarctica" and in the SCAR Code of Conduct for subglacial access in Antarctica
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guidance committee
Impact The SCAR Code of Conduct (on which Wadham served as a panel member) established guidelines for subglacial exploration in Antarctica. These have informed 3 subglacial lake access campaigns worldwide.
URL http://www.scar.org/scar_media/documents/science/atcm34_ip033_CofC_SAEs.pdf
 
Description Collaboration with the East Greenland Ice Core Project (EGRIP) 
Organisation University of Copenhagen
Department Niels Bohr Institute
Country Denmark 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Liz Bagshaw (former PDRA on two technology-led NERC grants led from Bristol) participated in the EGRIP field season, and developed and deployed Etracers and Cryo-Eggs for monitoring processes in firn.
Collaborator Contribution This collaboration would not have been possible without significant in kind backing from the EGRIP team.
Impact Further plans are being developed.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research ATHENA Expert group launched 
Organisation Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Leadership of an Expert group by Wadham on Advancing TecHnologies for Exploration in Antarctica (ATHENA) - international collaboration with several countries linked to NERC-funded research
Collaborator Contribution Collaboration
Impact Publication of a Special Issue of Annals of Glaciology on Advancing Technologies for Exploration in Antartica, input to the SCAR Code of Conduct for future exploration of subglacial environments (link to policy)
Start Year 2010
 
Description Technology application in Antarctica 
Organisation British Antarctic Survey
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Development of sensors and instrumentation for potential deployment via the BEAMISH programme
Collaborator Contribution input to technology development
Impact none as yet
Start Year 2010
 
Description Technology application in Antarctica 
Organisation Imperial College London
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Delivery of technology for future subglacial lake exploration
Collaborator Contribution deployment opportunities for technology deployment
Impact Ongoing
Start Year 2010
 
Description 1. Exhibition on "Could Cryo-Eggs help predict sea level rise?" at the Science Museum "Contemporary Science Gallery" (London, 2010-2011): 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact exhibition sparked much public interest via a web-based Q&A

media uptake
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010,2011
 
Description Invitation to two workshops on "Exploration of Subglacial Lake CECS, Antarctica", Valdivia, Chile 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Wadham was invited to and led discussion of plans to explore Antarctic Subglacial Lake CECs at two international workshops in the Centro Estudio Scientificos, in Valdivia (Chile). This was a UK-Chilean group of scientists and engineers who plan to enter and sample this lake.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016,2017
 
Description Invited research seminar at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Wadham invited to give a research seminar at WHOI, based upon her work on Greenland biogeochemistry and sensor development.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Keynote at European Geophysical Union Meeting (Vienna) by Wadham 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Wadham was invited to give a keynote presentation about her sensor development work via several NERC funded projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Organisation of a workshop - Sensor data collection and management in freshwater systems 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Participants in your research and patient groups
Results and Impact new collaborations

NERC impact accelerator funding (See follow-one funding)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Partnership with the BBC on documentary on BBC4 on "Dangerous Earth: Icebergs" 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact Wadham was a lead scientist on this BBC4 documentary, which communicated the impacts of icebergs on the rest of the planet. She participated in filming and appeared in the final product in December 2016.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016