Karen Junge

Karen JungeCurrently, Karen Junge’s research interests lie at the interface of the biosphere and geosphere where she explores bacterial life at extremely low temperatures in ice. She is motivated by research questions that center around how polar psychrophilic (cold-loving) bacteria adapt to life in ice and how they interact with and impact their physical and chemical environment, questions that currently comprise a very active research field. To this end, she develops and uses molecular biology, microbiology, geophysics and atmospheric science techniques. She is also interested in the genomic makeup of these organisms and molecular adaptations to the cold life style and how physiology, diversity and ecology of psychrophilic bacteria change when confronted with the extreme cold. She is driven to develop ways to analyze microbial communities under in-situ conditions with minimal disturbance of their natural environment.

Karen Junge heads the Polar Microbiology group within the Polar Science Center.

In The News

Selected Projects

  • Biosignatures in Earth and Mars ice and brines

    This project devises low-temperature liquid-water environments mimicking the known chemistry of brines. The research team measures microbial growth rate, metabolic activity, ability to survive while inactive, and longevity for psychrophiles to reveal proteomic biosignatures for growth, activity, and survival strategies, and understand key molecular responses of life in these environments.

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  • Rotten Ice

    The response of Arctic sea ice to a warming climate includes decreases in extent, lower ice concentration, and reduced ice thickness. Summer melt seasons are lengthening with earlier melt onsets and later autumn freezeups. We believe this will likely lead to an increase in so-called “rotten ice” in the Arctic at the end of summer. This ice has experienced a long summer of melt, is fragile, difficult to work with, and has received little attention. Comprehensive information on its physical and microbiological properties does not exist. Our team is embarking on an ambitious field campaign in order to study this poorly-understood type of sea ice in the context of its microstructural properties and potential for habitability.

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  • Greenland Meltwater Geomicrobiology

    This project characterizes the Greenland Ice Sheet’s subglacial microbial communities to investigate the effect of microbes on lithospheric weathering and nutrient fluxes from the GrIS margin in West Greenland.

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Selected Publications