In February 2016, I spent a few weeks on Deception Island, near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. I took along PhD student Geoffrey Kay, as a volunteer field assistant. We were collecting samples of the moss Bryum pseudotriquetrum, the springtail Cryptopygus antarcticus antarcticus, and soil samples. Deception Island is an active volcano and in some areas, the surface soil is more than 100°C! We collected samples from both heated and cool areas, with the aim of comparing genetic and community diversity. Temperatures can change over very short distances - within centimetres and metres of 'hot' spots, soil temperatures were observed to drop right down below zero.
We're interested in finding out whether geothermal heat can affect biodiversity in Antarctica even on these tiny scales, as well as on larger scales across the whole continent (see earlier post about the broad project on Antarctic volcanoes as refugia). We will use next generation sequencing approaches (exon capture for mosses, genotyping by sequencing for springtails, and 'environmental DNA' analysis for soil samples) to assess diversity patterns along temperature gradients on the island.
This field trip was supported by the Spanish Polar Programme, by a field grant from Antarctic Science, and by the Australian Research Council (DECRA grant DE140101715).
Here are some photos from the trip!