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  • The Dry Valley between Vikinghøgda and the highest mountain of the Sør Rondane mountains, Widerøefjellet
  • Sampling and experiments have started!
  • Some blogs of Belgian projects at the Princess Elisabeth Station
  • Arrival at the Princess Elisabeth Station and training
  • Science communication is important: special issue of Polar Record
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    Microbiome diversity and function in the Sør Rondane Mountains, East Antarctica
    Follow the updates on the expeditions of the MICROBIAN project to continental Antarctica!
    Klik hier om een link te hebben waarmee u dit artikel later terug kunt lezen.The Dry Valley between Vikinghøgda and the highest mountain of the Sør Rondane mountains, Widerøefjellet
    After trying out the assembly of the two snow fences, we still needed to find the appropriate locations to install them. After visiting Perlebandet, it immediately became clear we would never be able to install one of the fences over there: none of the relatively flat spots was big enough and exposed to the right wind direction. Exposure to wind is important, because the mechanism behind the snow fences is that they will create a small windscoop, by acting as a miniature version of a mountain or nunatak. The wind becomes turbulent after the snow fence, resulting in the deposition of extra snow. We will install permanent sampling plots in the zone with increased snow cover (behind the snow fences) as well as in an area that is not affected by the installation. The latter plots will serve as control sites. Temperature, humidity and light loggers will allow us to compare the environmental conditions between the areas with increased snow cover and the control plots. Sampling of the permanent plots within a few years should enable us to make comparisons in microbial community structure.

    After discussing with Gigi and Alain, Gigi suggested three potentially suited locations for installing one of the snow fences. One of them was the so-called ‘Dry Valley’ between the Vikinghøgda mountain range and the highest mountain of the Sør Rondane mountains, Widerøefjellet. On Thursday we crossed the Ketelersbreen glacier, passing Mt Vengen on our left, and soon we found the right spot. The valley is actually the catchment of the Ketelersbreen glacier, and is a very wide, ice-free, relatively flat area. It is highly exposed to the dominant easterly winds: perfect for our experiment. After sampling the area for our study aimed at assessing the effect of microclimatic conditions and bedrock type on the microbial communities, we returned to the base and enjoyed a delicious meal, which was prepared by Thomas. He is the only remaining cook on the station, now that David left with Alain, Christian, Pierre and Jacques for a traverse to the coast. Their mission is to pick up the last remaining containers with the construction equipment for finalizing the building below the station. During dinner we were informed that the next 2 days will probably be white-out days, and hence with little to no visibility. Weather conditions force us to stay inside: two days at the office (with a view)!

    27-01-2018 om 18:18 geschreven door Microbian  

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    Tags:Dry Valley, Vikinghøgda, Widerøefjellet, Snow Fences, traverse, Alain Hubert
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    Klik hier om een link te hebben waarmee u dit artikel later terug kunt lezen.Sampling and experiments have started!
    The past few days have been very busy for the MICROBIAN team. After the field training, Valentina, Sam and Elie immediately started with the sampling program. First, the snow fences were pre-assembled and all sampling protocols were tested. On Thursday we went to Teltet nunatak (Fig.1) to sample the Open-Top-Chambers (OTCs) which were installed there in 2010 by Dr. Zorigto Namsaraev within the framework of the BelSPO project BELDIVA. These OTCs will allow us to study the effect of increased temperatures on the diversity and composition of the soil communities.
    Fig.1: Map of the Sør Rondane Mountains showing the sampling sites visited during the past few days by the MICROBIAN team
    Unfortunately, both OTCs were for more than 1/3 covered by snow so we had to remove the upper snow layer (Fig.2), thereby ensuring not to touch and disturb the soil communities below.
    Fig.2: Valentina and Sam near the OTCs in Teltet.
    On Friday, Saturday and Monday we went to the Perlebandet nunatak which is situated West of Utsteinen (Fig.1). We found quite a diverse set of communities consisting of microbial biofilms and various species of lichens. In the Northern and Southern nunatak we sampled 15 of these communities and installed i-button loggers. These devices will measure temperature and relative humidity every three hours during the next year. These data will help us to understand the relation between microclimatic conditions and the presence of particular communities and microbial organisms. We also installed new OTCs in the area and sampled them in triplicate (Fig.3).
    Fig.3: Valentina and Sam sampling the newly installed OTCs in Perlebandet nunatak.
    Because we need to work sterile, we are wearing latex gloves. However, because of the wind chill our hands were really getting cold. Latex gloves are certainly not Antarctic weather proof! Even undergloves were not sufficient to keep our hands warm enough. After our work in Perlebandet we sampled the OTCs in Teltet on Monday. We can’t wait to see the results of the DNA sequencing analysis!
    On Tuesday we sampled soil communities in the Pingvinane nunatak. The existing OTCs there were also snow covered so we removed the upper snow layer and hope to sample them later this week. Today it was snowy and the visibility was poor. Hence, we needed to stay at the station, but Valentina and Sam used their time to try out the assembly of the snow fences together with Pierre-Yves, our field guide, and Paul, who is a member of the technical staff (Fig.4). Paul is probably one of the most experienced technicians in Antarctica!
    Fig.4: Pierre-Yves and Sam measuring the snow fence so it can be safely attached to the sledge (left of picture).

    The snow fences will allow us to assess the effect of increased snow cover on the microbial communities. This is interesting because several climate models predict increased snow cover in some Antarctic regions the coming century as a result of global change. The pre-assembly was really important, because Alain advised us to strengthen the installation to make it really wind proof. Paul installed an iron bar near the base of the snow fence which resulted in a very rigid structure (see picture). We believe we are ready to start the experiments with the snow fences!

    24-01-2018 om 21:12 geschreven door Microbian  

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    Klik hier om een link te hebben waarmee u dit artikel later terug kunt lezen.Some blogs of Belgian projects at the Princess Elisabeth Station

    Dear all,

    A number of research projects are currently running at the Station Princess Elisabeth, funded by the Belgian Scientific Policy Office.

    Alexander Mangold is scientist at the Royal Meteorological Institute at Uccle and has been in the station since 2009, as you can see from his very interesting blog: Among other instruments, he had set up the Automatic Weather Station in 2009 with Irina Gorodetskaya (U. Leuven) and you can see the weather data in real time on this website:

    On the website of the Belgian Antarctic Research (, you can read the posts of Nadine Mattielli (ULB). She was at the PES station to install instruments to measure particles’s movement and passive samplers at and around PE station.  

    More blogs? Jean-Louis Tison (ULB) is talking about glaciological research on the ICECON blog:

    21-01-2018 om 13:51 geschreven door Microbian  

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    Klik hier om een link te hebben waarmee u dit artikel later terug kunt lezen.Arrival at the Princess Elisabeth Station and training
    After a 6 hours flight from Cape Town we arrived at Novo Station where we had a small lunch. In the meantime, our luggage and the cargo for Princess Elisabeth station was offloaded from the Boeing 757 and loaded in a Basler plane. A flight of a little bit more than an 1 hour took us to the station. The view from the plane was breathtaking! We observed inland nunataks (mountain tops sticking out of the ice sheet), and towards the coast we could see icebergs which have calved off from the ice sheet.

    The days after our arrival, the MICROBIAN team followed a number of training courses and got prepared for the sampling. We followed a medical training organized by the doctor Barbara, a skidoo training given by the mechanic/field guide Christian and the field guide Pierre-Yves, and a training to pitch the tent. Alain explained us how we need to use the GPS and VHF radio. A short exercise on using the GPS around the station allowed us to check the open-top-chambers (OTCs) on the Utsteinen ridge. These OTCs were installed in 2010 and will allow us to experimentally assess the effect of temperature rise on microbial communities in the Sør Rondane Mountains. On Tuesday afternoon we had a crevasse training c. 10 km away from the station. This was very cool (see picture)! Because we will travel on skidoo between the different nunataks in which we will take our samples, we need to travel on sometimes dangerous terrain. The training will allow us to react appropriately in case of an emergency. In the meantime, the team has pre-assembled the new OTCs, cleaned and prepared the lab space in the science container and prepared all the sampling equipment. We are ready to go!

    Crevasse training!.

    16-01-2018 om 22:54 geschreven door Microbian  

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    Klik hier om een link te hebben waarmee u dit artikel later terug kunt lezen.Science communication is important: special issue of Polar Record
    Call for papers: Polar Record special issue on education, outreach & engagement

    Guest editors: Rhian Salmon and Rebecca Priestley

    Submission deadline: 31 January 2018

    Ten years ago, the International Polar Year 2007-2008 led to an upwelling of Education, Outreach and Communication (EOC) initiatives across the polar research community that have had long-lasting effect. At the 2016 SCAR conference in Kuala Lumpur, the Humanities and Social Science Expert Group identified science communication as a research priority. This special Issue of Polar Record will be dedicated to Education, Outreach, and Engagement related to polar research, and will help to draw scholarly attention to this important, but neglected, aspect of polar research. It will be published in January 2019, in conjunction with the tenth anniversary of the International Polar Year 2007-2008 (which ran from March 2017-March 2019).

    More information:

    Interested into our first exploration of the microbial diversity around the Station Princess Elisabeth? See

    14-01-2018 om 14:42 geschreven door Microbian  

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    Tags:Education & Outreach
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    Klik hier om een link te hebben waarmee u dit artikel later terug kunt lezen.Final preparations in South Africa
    Klik op de afbeelding om de link te volgen After crossing the Sahara during an 11 hour flight from Paris to Cape Town, the MICROBIAN team is preparing to leave for the largest desert on earth, the Antarctic! In the office of the International Polar Foundation, Elie, Valentina and Sam, together with the expedition doctor, Barbara, and 2 Turkish geologists, Serdar and Naki, tried on and tested many kinds of Polar clothing and gear. Insulating layer after layer was put on while temperatures in Cape Town reached 32°C. In the afternoon, all the scientists and operating personnel travelling to different research stations in Dronning Maud Land attended a briefing given by the Antarctic Logistic Centre. The briefing provided the latest details of the upcoming flight to the Russian Antarctic research station Novolazarevskaya (Novo for the friends). From there a Basler BT-67 aircraft will take the team across the Sor Rondane Mountains to the Belgian Princess Elisabeth station during a 1.5 hours flight. The weather in Novo is very mild at the moment and forecasted to be between -2 and -3°C at the time of landing. If the weather remains fine the team should arrive at the Princess Elisabeth station in the evening. So fingers crossed and stay tuned for more news to come in the next few days!​

    The 2018 MICROBIAN team. From left to right: Prof. Dr. Elie Verleyen (Ghent University), Sam Lambrechts (PhD student, Ghent University) and Valentina Savaglia (PhD student, Liège University).

    11-01-2018 om 00:00 geschreven door Microbian  

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    Tags:Princess Elisabeth Station, Antarctica, microorganisms
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    Klik hier om een link te hebben waarmee u dit artikel later terug kunt lezen.Welcome!!
    Hello and welcome to the blog of the MICROBIAN project. Here you can follow the expeditions of the MICROBIAN team to the Sør Rondane Mountains in East Antarctica.
    Check out this blog frequently for updates from one of the most extreme environments on Earth!

    For more information on the project, visit the MICROBIAN website!

    10-01-2018 om 00:00 geschreven door Microbian  

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    Tags:expedition, Antarctica
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