LV Sketchbook Page 044

September 30, 2016

Sketchbook page 044 takes mol­e­c­ular biology for its subject, an area that fascinated the earliest Antarctic explorers. Today, mol­e­c­ular biologists and biochemists are at the forefront of studying Antarctica’s environmental changes in our era of global warming. The Southern Ocean around the Antarctic Penin­sula is predicted to rise between two and five degrees Cel­sius over the next two cen­turies, bringing radical change to marine organisms ranging from single-celled microbes to fish. Presently these Antarctic creatures’ body tem­per­a­tures fall in a very narrow range — from -1.9 to +2 degrees Celsius — to which they have adapted over a period of 50 mil­lion years. Sudden tem­per­a­ture increases will bring a shock to their phys­i­o­log­ical sys­tems with unknown consequences.

To gain insight into how warming waters might affect the devel­op­ment of fish embryos and their growth after hatching, marine biologists are raising various species in both current water temperatures and at the projected higher temperatures. In the process, they analyze the fishes’ physiology and biochemistry using state-of-the-art lab equipment. One instrument, a high-throughput automatic DNA sequencer, allows scientists to observe organisms from their basic biological building blocks using digital data and visualization tools. Through such technology and experimentation, researchers aim to pro­vide pol­i­cy­makers and the public with data to inform deci­sion-making in regards to cli­mate change and pro­tecting life in Antarctic waters.