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Dry Valley researcher named Kudos finalist


9 September 2011

Dry Valley researcher named Kudos finalist

Dr Lee With McMurdo Dry Valleys In The Background


Dr Charles Lee from the University of Waikato department of Biological Science has been nominated as a finalist in the 2011 Kudos awards for his work uncovering the unusual ecology of microorganisms in Antarctica’s McMurdo Dry Valleys.

Nominated in the Emerging Scientist Category, Dr Lee’s research on the soil microbiota of the Dry Valleys could lead to a better understanding of the changing Antarctic environment.

The Kudos awards are a Waikato initiative held once a year to celebrate science achievement in the region.

“The Dry Valleys are ice-free all year round and basically a cold, seemingly lifeless desert,” says Dr Lee.

“For a long time, people had this idea that the environment in the Dry Valleys was largely sterile.”

Scientists found bacterial life in the Dry Valleys using DNA-based molecular genetic techniques, necessary as the organisms are very sparse in the soil and mostly uncultivable.

“In terms of microbiology, we now know there is quite a lot of microbial diversity in the Dry Valleys. The make-up of microbial communities is heavily influenced by the environment, so if Antarctica changes in the next few years we are likely to see drastic changes in these microbial communities.”

University of Waikato scientists have led New Zealand’s terrestrial biological research in Antarctica for more than 25 years and spend every summer carrying out fieldwork on the frozen continent.

“My research is about understanding our environment and may lead to significant changes in our understanding of Antarctica.”

Dr Lee is part of the university’s International Centre for Terrestrial Antarctic Research and is currently leading a project supported by the Marsden Fund to study the bacteria living in the Dry Valleys.

The University of Waikato has two other finalists in the Kudos awards – Dr Anne Hume and Dr Johan Verbeek. The winners of the awards will be announced at a dinner on Thursday October 13.

ends

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