Building an Icy World:

A New Tool for Understanding the Role of Sea Ice Algae in Polar Environments

The Arctic Ocean is experiencing rapid warming and record ice retreat. We have little understanding of how the new, emerging Arctic System will function in terms of environment, ecology and as an important economic and social resource. A critical factor in preparing for this new Arctic environment is to understand the complex interactions between ocean physics, chemistry and biology associated with the seasonal formation and retreat of sea ice. I am particularly interested in understanding how sea-ice algae influence the formation and melt of sea ice, and in turn, how temperature and salinity within the sea ice influence the nutritional quality of the algae. To understand these interactions, I propose to develop an artificial, laboratory-scale, sea-ice system that mimics the seasonal formation and melt of Arctic sea ice. Sea ice will be grown within an insulated 3m3 tank placed in a laboratory cold room with adjustable temperature (to mimic air temperature). Circulating seawater inoculated with naturally occurring Arctic sea-ice microbiota (including sea-ice algae, collected from the field) will be fed from a separate, temperature-controlled reservoir (to mimic circulating ocean currents). LED lights and wave paddles will recreate seasonal light and surface mixing conditions. Modular and adjustable sampling strategies and sensors will be included to measure ice formation, physical parameters (e.g. temperature and salinity), chemical parameters (e.g. O2, volatile gases) and biological parameters (e.g. fluorescence, community composition). By simulating the physical, chemical and biological components of sea-ice formation and melt in the Arctic, this will provide a novel, experimental system capable of testing future Arctic scenarios. This research is funded by a UW Innovation Award.

Associated Lab Members:

Jodi Young

Katrin Schmidt (will be starting in Jan 2018)