McMurdo Dry Valleys MO: Experimental Approach

Created by George Rice, Montana State University

Studying the lakes in the dry valleys is a multi-disciplinary exercise. There are four Principal Investigators ( John Priscu of Montana State University; Michael Madigan of Southern Illinois University; Stephen Giovannoni of Oregon State University; and Brian Lanoil of University of California-Riverside) on the project as well as many Post-Docs, technicians, graduate and undergraduate students.

Principal Investigators:

John Priscu, Brian Lanoil, Mike Madigan, and Stephon Giovannoni
John Priscu, Brian Lanoil, Mike Madigan, and Stephon Giovannoni (left to right)

Sample Collection and Site Characterization:

Because these lakes are permanently ice-covered, researchers need to drill through 4-6m of ice to reach the liquid water below. A profile of water samples is collected by lowering a niskin bottle down through the hole in the ice.

Sample collection hut and drilling in the McMurdo Dry Valleys
Sample collection hut (photo by Chritine Foreman), and ice drilling (photo by Brent Christner).

Sometimes the drill bits get frozen into the ice, making the process quite challenging. The photo below left shows the crew trying to free the stuck bit. On the right, an ice-coring bit is shown alongside exposed gas bubbels and sediment trapped in the ice.

Drilling in McMurdo Dry Valleys and gas bubbles/sediment trapped in the ice.
Stuck drilling (photo by Chritine Foreman), and gas bubbles and sediment in trapped in the ice (photo by Jill Mikucki).