Mapping the uncharted diversity of Arctic marine microbes by Eric Collins

Eric Collins has been in research projects in different parts of Arctic for several years. He collected samples from a Chukchi Sea shelf and from different parts of Barents Sea (North of Norway), and introduced his audience to the preliminary results. Eric’s bigger term project is to sample all Arctic. Eric also traveled through Greenland (about 400 miles) by skiing. All sampling was done in 2015 expedition.

Eric Collins informed the audience about different kinds of ice and ways that microorganisms interact with ice; talked about the flow of water through Arctic which is the key to understand its properties: the circulation of water takes about 25 to 30 years and it is longer for deeper water layers. There are two main currents that help in water circulation. The modern Arctic has a shallow link to the Pacific Ocean and was 120 m lower 21,000 years ago. Russian rivers provide about 80% of fresh water to Arctic. Throughout the Arctic waters, the temperature, salinity changes, so the conditions for microorganism to survive.

As the climate is changing, the Greenland started to melt and there is not much of ice older than 5 years left in the Arctic. Then, Eric showed a video to demonstrate the change in Arctic size from 1980’s to present. In his project, Eric researched and found a diversity of microorganisms throughout the Arctic waters. Microorganisms differ depending on the sampling place (16S rRNA diversity). Eric explained a “subsurface chlorophyll layer’ which can be found in between nutrients-rich cold water and warm salt water. Then, Eric is planning to map all diversity of microorganisms and he’s already started. This final map will show how microorganisms from one place will differ from another. This map will be like Google Earth; multi-dimensional browsing. More abundance from microorganisms than Archaea or Eukaryotes.

That was an interesting lecture. I’ve learned about oceanography and diverse microbial life in salt frozen waters of Arctic. This research is focused on Arctic territory. After the lecture, I’ve asked Eric if there were any plans for researching Antarctic microbial diversity. I’ve got an answer that the researching Antarctica would be a great opportunity to compare microbial worlds but there is nothing planned in the future for this kind of project.