Greenland Meltwater Geomicrobiology

Ron Sletten admiring the edge of the Greenland ice sheet near Thule, West Greenland; photo credit: Karen Cameron.

PI: Karen Junge

The Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) is the largest freshwater reservoir in the Arctic. Melting of the GrIS is increasing, delivering large amounts of freshwater to the Arctic Ocean. The nature and composition of microbial communities below the GrIS are not known, but recent studies have documented the presence of viable microbial communities in other subglacial environments and within the GrIS ice itself, indicating their potential importance for chemical weathering processes. This project characterizes GrIS’ subglacial microbial communities to investigate the effect of microbes on lithospheric weathering and nutrient fluxes from the GrIS margin in West Greenland. The hypothesis is that the glacial thermal regime and bedrock lithology are the primary determinants of the subglacial bacterial communities, which in turn mediate nutrient release and weathering rates. Study sites in the Thule and Kangerlussuaq areas cover two major lithologies of West Greenland. The study combines state-of-the art microbiological, biogeochemical techniques, and datalogging of stream and climate parameters, to examine glacial meltwater.

This is a collaborative study involving PIs from from University of Alaksa Anchorage (Birgit Hagedorn, UAA), University of Washington (Ron Sletten (ESS,) and Louisiana State University (Brent Christner, LSU, ).



Funding source: NSF- OPP grants 1023462