Mysteries of invisible life in the coldest place on Earth
We all know that Antarctica is home to penguins, that lichen can grow on its rocks , and that polar explorers live and work there. But is there another life in Antarctica that we can't see — a permanent community of microbes that can tolerate ultra-low temperatures? If so, where do they come from? Do they live there all the time, adapted to the harsh Antarctic conditions, or do they come down with the snow every year and get preserved in this massive outdoor fridge? Russian polar stations have been seeking answers to these questions for the last decade.
In 2009 and 2011 samples of Antarctic snow were taken from Russia's Mirny, Leningradskaya and Progress stations, located on the Antarctic coast. The microbial community living in the snow surface layer was found to be very diverse. In 2017, Victor Fedorchuk, an intern at the Skoltech Center for Life Sciences (headed by Professor Konstantin Severinov), travelled south to the sixth continent in search of final answers.
Original idea and words by
name: KONSTANTIN SEVERINOV status: Supervisor
Graduate of the Faculty of Biology at Moscow State University, PhD in Biology, Director of the Center of Life Sciences at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology (Skoltech), Professor at Rutgers University (USA)
name: DMITRY SUTORMIN status: Researcher
Graduate of the Faculty of Mechanics and Mathematics at Moscow State University, DSc in Biology, PhD (Candidate) in Physics and Mathematics; Deputy Director of the Institute for Information Transmission at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Professor and Director of master's degree programs in life sciences at Skoltech, and in data analysis in biology and medicine at the Higher School of Economics (Moscow)
name: VICTOR FEDORCHUK status: Researcher
Graduate of the Geology Faculty at Moscow State University. Joined the Skoltech Center of Life Sciences as an intern after the trip to Antarctica. Sutormin's friend and classmate: they went to school together in Moscow
name: CATION status: The laboratory cat
An animated fluff ball found near the campus two years ago and called "Cation" in honour of the positively charged ion of the same name. The cat walks the institute corridors, occasionally misbehaves and occasionally gives the researchers new ideas. Cation is inspirational.