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S.T. Lee Young Scientist Exchange: Bacterial rhodopsin in Antarctic sea ice

Tuesday, Aug 30, 2022 at 11:00 am 12:00 pm

Description: Ian Blixt, a PhD Candidate at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, will present at IARC as part of the S.T. Lee Young Scientist Exchange. Blixt will discuss his research on bacterial rhodopsin in Antarctic sea ice.

Despite its appearance as a cold and desolate environment, Antarctic sea ice is highly productive. Inside the brine network of Antarctic sea ice, there is a sea ice microbial community (SIMCO) that produces nearly 40 million tonnes of biogenic carbon annually. SIMCO productivity is regulated by biogeochemical processes, including bacterial remineralization of organic matter. However, our understanding of bacterial remineralization has been called into question by the recent discovery of rhodopsin expression in these bacteria. Rhodopsins are a family of membrane bound photoproteins that effectively let these bacteria use sunlight as an alternative source of energy. It is likely that rhodopsin driven energy flux isn’t used for growth, but is instead used for stress defence. That is, rhodopsin activity likely reduces the rate of mortality these bacteria experience, thus increasing net bacterial biomass in the ice. My research aims to describe this in a quantitative way, to answer the question “what is the significance of rhodopsin driven energy flux in Antarctic sea ice?”

About the S.T. Lee Young Scientist Exchange: The S.T. Lee Young Scientist Exchange is a partnership between IARC and the Antarctic Research Centre, Victoria University of Wellington. The program supports exchange of students and early career scientists between the two institutions to promote the sharing of knowledge and ideas between Arctic and Antarctic focused research. The S.T. Lee Lecture was established by Singaporean philanthropist Lee Seng Tee. IARC also participates in the S.T. Lee Fellowship program which supports lectures by senior-level researchers.

This lecture is in person in Akasofu 401 or register to attend virtually.