Leading Antarctic scientist joins SAMS to further algae research
Photo Credit :SAMS
A scientist who led the creation of the first ever large-scale map of microscopic algae on the snow covered Antarctic coastline – so-called ‘green snow’ – has joined the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) to continue his research.
Dr Matt Davey comes to the Oban-based institute from the University of Cambridge and has recently published findings in the journal Nature Communications that show the current distribution of the algae and how they are likely to spread as the global temperature increases.
The research team from Cambridge and the British Antarctic Survey combined satellite data with on-the-ground observations over two summers in Antarctica to detect and measure the green snow algae. Although each individual alga is microscopic in size, when they grow en masse they turn the snow bright green and can be seen from space.
Dr Davey said his research could develop further following his move to SAMS, which hosts the Culture Collection of Algae and Protozoa, the UK’s algal library and one of the most diverse collections in the world.
He added: “This research shows that there is still much to discover about the biology of Antarctica and how it might change over the coming decades. Using the latest satellite and spectral imagery technology, combined with simple but essential field work, we were able to produce maps of terrestrial algal blooms in Antarctica for the first time.”
Blooms of green snow algae are found around the Antarctic coastline, particularly on islands along the west coast of the Antarctic Peninsula. They grow in ‘warmer’ areas, where average temperatures are just above zero degrees Celsius during the austral summer - the Southern Hemisphere’s summer months of November to February. The Peninsula is the part of Antarctica that experienced the most rapid warming in the latter part of the last century.
Dr Davey, who started at SAMS in May as a new senior lecturer in algal biotechnology, said: “I am looking forward to advancing this and other essential research at SAMS and with other national and international collaborators. SAMS is ideally placed to advance polar algal biology, combining key areas in taxonomy, metabolic science and the space and drone sector. Having CCAP, a global leader in algal culture collections, research and resource provision within the institute was a key factor in my decision to move to SAMS.”