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Select the Question mark to the left of each question for the answer.
How is it that Desert Research Institute scientists are working in the ocean in Antarctica?
Why do you need to travel all the way to Antarctica to study Archaeal gene expression?
How do you get from Reno to Palmer Station?
What are the best genetic tools to measure changes in gene expression?
What can gene expression in archaea and bacteria teach us that can lead to great new discoveries?
What is the Tree of Life?

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Why do you need to travel all the way to Antarctica to study Archaeal gene expression? Our study involves learning about and discovering life in extreme environments, which is where archaea usually thrive. Extreme environments can be highly saline (salt ponds), anaerobic and sulfurous (hot springs, thermal vents), extremely cold or dry. The marine waters in Antarctica [link to map] remain at temperatures below 0 degrees C (averaging -1 °C; with winter waters near the freezing point of seawater -1.8 °C ) year round.

One group of archaea, the marine planktonic Crenarchaeota are abundant in surface waters in the Antarctic at certain times of the year. Scientists know that their abundance changes through the seasons, and are interested in understanding the reasons behind this dynamic. Also, since they are abundant, it makes it easy to collect large numbers of them. A large number of organisms are required to ensure the collection of enough nucleic acid necessary to develop the technology that will help us understand which genes they express - and how their expression pattern might change in response to environmental cues.

Of course, the Archaea are only one part of the equation. What we really want to know is how the Antarctic bacterioplankton (which includes bacteria and archaea) respond to changes in their environments, in terms of gene expression. The critical part of our project entails building the library of genes that encode for these organisms so that we can study how they adapt to their changing environment. For more details, please visit our Project Description.

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