McMurdo Dry Valleys Long Term Ecological Research (LTER)  
Dry Valleys Banner (photo: Chris Gardner)  
  McMurdo LTER Areas of Research


"Hotsy" is prepped to enlarge a hole in Lake Hoare (Brent Christner)The MCM lakes program is focused on understanding the ecosystem structure and function of the microbe-dominated lakes in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, where few metazoans exist within the water columns. Specifically, this project collects long-term data on the physical and chemical conditions within the lakes and relates them to biological diversity and rate processes. The lakes, being the terminus of the hydrological continuum in the MCM, are reservoirs of history and are the only environments within the study site that contain liquid water and support metabolic activity throughout the year. Temporal data on lake level, ice thickness, and PAR closely reflect changes in climate and associated hydrology within the study area.

The nonturbulent nature of the perennially ice-covered lakes in the dry valleys restricts mixing of nutrients to diffusion processes. Pelagic lake investigations examined organic carbon transformations between phytoplankton and bacterioplankton, the influence of nutrient input via streams on phytoplankton productivity, and determine primary loss rates for the phytoplankton (e.g., respiration, sinking).

Paleolimnological studies are being conducted to put present lake environments into historical perspective, tracing environmental changes through recent time using lake bottom experiments. We aim to confirm and expand this record by using paleolake sediments left by lake stands (e.g., Glacial Lake Washburn), as well as investigate new dating techniques to refine temporal control.

More Information

  • Primary Investigators

    John Priscu
    Montana State University
    Microbial Ecology
    (Research Group Home Page)

    Department of Biology
    309 Lewis Hall
    Montana State University
    Bozeman, MT 59717

    Peter Doran
    University of Illinois at Chicago
    (Research Group Home Page)

    University of Illinois at Chicago
    Dept of Earth & Env Sciences
    845 W. Taylor Street
    Chicago, IL 60607-7059

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Current Limnological Methods Manual (PDF)



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Last updated Nov 2013
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