Sarah King

UC Davis

“Self-organized pinnacle patterns in Antarctic lakes”

The lakes of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, host microbial communities that grow into 3D structures, such as pinnacles, in the absence of physical or biologic perturbations. One such lake, Lake Vanda, has well characterized gradients in irradiance, nutrients, and sedimentation. Lake Vanda has also experienced gradual lake level rise over time due to climate change. Therefore, we can analyze changes in the spatial patterning of microbial pinnacles due to both environmental gradients and time. I have used video data from 37 sites in Lake Vanda that cover gradients in depth, estimated sedimentation rate, and nutrient availability to create 3D models of the microbial communities. I used these models to quantify the spatial patterning of the pinnacles and found that the pinnacles demonstrate a range of spatial patterning schemes. Further work aims to quantify the degree to which each environmental variable causes changes in spatial patterning, which could enable us to predict how further climate change will impact these ecosystems.


Sarah is researching what mechanisms drive the self-organizing spatial patterning of the benthic microbial mats of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica in order to better understand microbial ecology and how climate change is impacting Antarctic ecosystems.

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