In addition to being home to polar bears, whales and walruses, the Arctic hosts vast and complex communities of microscopic organisms (microbes) that actually are more numerous and have more biomass than larger, more charismatic organisms. The study of microbes in their natural environments is the focus of microbial ecology.
It was always important to understand microbes and the processes they mediate in Arctic ecosystems, but these topics take on an additional urgency now that the region is being buffeted by climate change and global warming. From research mainly in lower latitude systems, we know that microbes drive many important biogeochemical reactions, including those in the carbon cycle. How Arctic microbes differ from those in temperate regions is one of many questions being examined by scientists at Delaware and elsewhere.
Here is a summary of some of the research being conducted at the University of Delaware on the various types of microbes found in Arctic ecosystems. These microbes include viruses, bacteria, cyanobacteria, archaea, and protists.
Major areas of research on Arctic microbes at Delaware include:
Financial support for work in the Kirchman lab comes from grants from NSF (0632233 and ARC-0806295) and DOE (DEFC2608NT05666).