IN-SPACE: An Integrated Network to measure Seasonal Processes in Arctic habitats via novel Experiments

Microbial life in the Arctic

This access project, which was led by Catherine Larose (Ecole Centrale de Lyon), conducted a comprehensive census of microbial biodiversity, functional diversity and activity in a range of proglacial and glacial habitats and coupled this to changes in the chemical and physical environment. The resulting dataset is an important contribution to understanding the impact of snowpack characteristics on energy balance and chemical reactions and determining the rate, timing and release of fresh water during snow melt. 

The project built on a collaboration between scientists from Germany, the UK, Norway, France, Italy and Poland. Together, the team members contributed an essential cross-disciplinary perspective to this emerging field of research, with individual specialisations in snow physics, chemistry, biogeochemistry, glaciology, hydrology, and microbiology.

"Four skiers dragging their field equipment up a snowy hill, next to a mountain"

Figure 1. Sometimes, skiing is the only way. Photo credit: James Bradley

"Three scientists digging snow pits to collect samples."

Figure 2. Sampling in Svalbard means bringing along more than just sampling equipment.

Being safe is first priority, but digging is fun, too! Photo credit: James Bradley

The team collected a total of 90 snow, ice, soil and cryoconite samples in May 2021, during the onset of melt, and September 2021, at the end of the melting season in Ny Ålesund. These samples were shipped back to the laboratories of the associated partners for biological and chemical analysis.

The team also used short-range remote sensing methods (Terrestrial Laser Scanning) for the acquisition of Digital Surface Models of the snow cover, and dug snowpacks to measure snowpack structure stratigraphy and Snow Water Equivalent. Combining these measurements with microbial activity measurements will provide an essential cross-disciplinary perspective to microbial life in the Arctic.

In-Space would like to thank SIOS for funding the project, logistical support and understanding with the difficulties in organising administrative procedures during COVID. Additional thanks go to the staff at AWIPEV and Dirigible in Ny-Ålesund for hospitality.

Figure 3. Back in the lab - samples need processing! Photo credit: James Bradley

Figure 4. In-Space science team, though they look like they should be a band. Photo credit: James Bradley