When I started at Central Michigan University (back in 2011), I would have never imagined conducting microbial research on Antarctic benthic sediments. Joining a research expedition to Antarctica would have been unimaginable. It’s fun looking back to see that a friendly science conversation with Andy Mahon (who started at CMU at the same time) initiated this all off. Our original intention was not to find a collaborative research project, but to talk about science. While I was hearing words, like pycnogonid, for the first time, our conversation also mentioned sampling sediments for meiofauna. A few more conversations later, Andy and his collaborators (including Ken Halanych) offered to collect some sediment samples for my lab, which then generated new collaborative research ideas, new projects/manuscripts, and even successful (and a few unsuccessful) grant funding. Our current work will utilize metagenomics and metatranscriptomics, coupled with microcosm experiments, enzyme assays, and geochemical data to describe how microbes degrade complex organic matter in Antarctic sediments. The upcoming expedition will expand our samples collection from the Ross and Amundsen Sea to the Weddell Sea. I am excited for the upcoming opportunity to continue to explore microbial metabolism in sediments in Antarctica, and of course talking science during our expedition.
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Dr. Deric Learman
Central Michigan University