State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Polar Ice, Penguin Tracks and Phytoplankton

Jamie Collins, a research colleague of Jeff Bowman, measures ice thickness outside Palmer Station in Antarctica. The ice was about 70 cm thick. Photo: Jeff Bowman
Jamie Collins, a research colleague of Jeff Bowman, measures ice thickness outside Palmer Station in Antarctica. The ice was about 70 cm thick. Photo: Jeff Bowman

At the base of the polar food chain in the icy waters off Antarctica, phytoplankton are an essential food source for young krill, which in turn sustain many species of marine wildlife. Jeff Bowman, a postdoctoral research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, is in Antarctica for the field season studying how phytoplankton and bacteria interact, particularly their cooperative interactions. Toxic compounds produced by phytoplankton, for example, may be cleaned up by bacterial partners, allowing photosynthesis to proceed more efficiently, ultimately meaning more food in the food web.

You can follow Bowman’s reports from Palmer Station, Antarctica, with great photos of the work, the changeable weather, penguin tracks and pack ice on his research blog, Polar Microbes.

Science for the Planet: In these short video explainers, discover how scientists and scholars across the Columbia Climate School are working to understand the effects of climate change and help solve the crisis.
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