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Glaciers and ice sheets are one of the most important freshwater reservoirs on earth. The planet has seen unprecedented melting of ice masses over the last decade and these meltwaters are often the main drinking water source for many of the world’s communities which are being threatened due to climate change. Increased global temperatures combined with an increase of light absorbing particles (i.e., soot and pigmented algae) on glacier surfaces leads to ice surface darkening and increased melting. Microalgae have recently been identified as significant contributors to ice surface darkening, however, much of their life cycle is still unknown.
Global climate models rarely consider the effect of biological darkening of glaciers and ice sheets and likely severely underestimate their impact. We use a suite of tools ranging from spectroscopy to molecular biology to gain a better understanding of the processes that control these algal blooms which will help to define this biological impact for future climate models.
Christopher Trivedi is a postdoctoral scholar at the German Research Centre for Geosciences Potsdam whose current research focuses on using molecular biology and bioinformatics to understand the microalgae that inhabit glacial environments. Prior to this work he obtained his degree from the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, CO, USA where he studied a sulfur-impacted glacier in the Canadian Arctic as an analog for what microbial life might be like on Jupiter’s moon Europa.