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Great to see the meticulous attention being invested to ensure the science isn’t compromised by contamination from the surface. Just curious though, how sterile are the shovel and funnel that are being used to collect the snow samples? Is it conceivable that bacteria on either could also be a source of contamination (be it from their point of manufacture, or simply one of the other sample sites near the camp)?
Rest assured, you are only seeing snapshots here. Just prior to sampling at each site, we spray the shovel and funnel with 70% ethanol and wipe it with a sterile piece of lint (I know they are sterile because I’ve looked at them under the microscope). That is part of the kit in the large metal box on the sledge. Good point though.
Are there likely to be micro organisms in the cold air of the Antarctic ? Are you going to take air samples to culture to see if there are likely contaminants ?
Will we get to see results of the scientific work you’re doing as well as the results from the drilling ? Will you take samples from various depths of the bore hole ?
Great work, loving your updates on thid blog
There are indeed microorganisms in the cold air of the Antarctic – and lots of them. Indeed, some bacteria have been shown to produce condensation nuclei, which can aid cloud formation. We have previously published two papers and a review on them (See below). However, another way to access this diversity is to collect snow which is a very good scavenger of particulates in the atmosphere.
Hughes, K.A., McCartney, H.A., Lachlan-Cope, T.A. and Pearce, D.A. (2004). A preliminary study of airbourne biodiversity over peninsular Antarctica. Cellular and Molecular Biology. 50(5): 537-542.