Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 

$1m for new Mt Erebus research


27 August 2019

University of Waikato-led team receive nearly $1m for new Mt Erebus research

A team from the University of Waikato and University of Canterbury, led by Professor Craig Cary, has received a nearly $1m Marsden research grant to study unique micro-organisms that live in the geothermal fumerols of Mt Erebus in Antarctica.

This research will break new ground as they will be drilling to access the deep subsurface at the summit (~3800m) of Mt Erebus, an active volcano, which has never been attempted before.

This will make the fieldwork very challenging, as Professor Cary says, “no one knows how to drill into a geothermal surface of this volcano. We’re developing technology so we can continually monitor and observe, using temperature sensors, but it is an unknown.”

By drilling up to 10m into the sub-surface of the volcano, the team hope to gain access to micro-organisms that survive on the unique geochemistry on Mt Erebus is able to support.

“You only have to go 10cm deep to start discovering micro-organisms that aren’t found anywhere else in the world,” says Professor Cary.

This project will build on previous research undertaken by Professor Cary and his team of Professor Ian McDonald and Dr Charles Lee, first funded by National Geographic then followed by a previous Marsden grant. Their most recent papers indicated the need to go deeper into the sub-surface, resulting in this new study.

“As well as our previous research, the University of Waikato has a rich history in working on the top of Mt Erebus. Emeritus Professors Roy Daniel and Hugh Morgan, who built the Thermophile Research Unit at the University, went up the mountain first to cultivate the micro-organisms found there,” says Professor Cary.

As well as going deeper, this new study will involve the team growing the bacteria on site and at Scott Base, a task not usually undertaken as the conditions the micro-organisms exist in are extremely difficult to replicate.

One of the collaborators on the project, Slava Epstein from Northeastern University, has developed culture chambers that can be stuck down the bore holes drilled by the team, so they can incubate the bacteria in situ.

“Most bacteria in the world have never been cultured, so to culture bacteria from such a hard-to-reach place with such unusual chemistry is incredibly exciting,” says Professor Cary.

“We are looking for bacteria that are accessing new sources of energy using methods only theoretically possible. Knowing this not only provides an exciting new foundation for the limits of life on this planet, but for life on other planets.”

This research will take place over four seasons spent on Mt Erebus, with the first season starting at the end of this year an exploration or ‘shake-down’, where the researchers will test every tool to see how it will work to explore the sub-surface plumbing they will be drilling through.

The following seasons will be intense, with a larger team travelling to the site, including a telecommunications person who will create a network on the mountain so the data can be monitored from anywhere in the world.

The team hopes to put in place a significant outreach programme, so those in New Zealand can see what is happening in real-time.

“This project is formidable, and a testament to New Zealand’s willingness to support high-risk science in very difficult to get to places, with a hopefully big payoff. We’re aiming to find some unusual bacteria doing unusual things,” says Professor Cary.

The team’s possible findings could have ramifications for basic science, but also a myriad of possible applications commercially and in the search for life on other planets, due to the geochemistry involved.

“We’re aiming to extend the boundaries of understanding of how life can exist on this planet, and thrive in these extreme environments,” says Professor Cary.

ends


© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

National: National Backs Businesses With $10k JobStart

National will provide a $10,000 cash payment to businesses that hire additional staff as part of our commitment to keeping New Zealanders in jobs, National Party Leader Todd Muller and Finance spokesperson Paul Goldsmith have announced. Our JobStart ... More>>

ALSO:

DIY Law: Government Exempts Some Home Improvements From Costly Consents

Homeowners, builders and DIYers will soon have an easier time making basic home improvements as the Government scraps the need for consents for low-risk building work such as sleep-outs, sheds and carports – allowing the construction sector ... More>>

ALSO:

Media Awards: The New Zealand Herald Named Newspaper Of The Year, Website Of The Year At Voyager Media Awards

The New Zealand Herald has been labelled a “powerhouse news operation” as it claims the two biggest prizes – Newspaper of the Year and Website of the Year – along with many individual awards at the 2020 Voyager Media Awards Website of the ... More>>

ALSO:

ASB Bank: ASB Takes The Lead Again With New Low Home Loan Interest Rate

ASB has moved again to support its customers, cutting a number of home loan rates, including the two-year special rate to a new low of 2.69% p.a. Craig Sims, ASB executive general manager Retail Banking says the reduced rate will be welcome news for many ... More>>

ALSO:

Nathan Hoturoa Gray: The Problems With Testing And Case Statistics For Covid-19

To begin to understand disease transmission in a country requires adequate testing of your population with properly vetted, accurate tests. As the world struggles to find what 'adequate percentage' of the population is necessary, (estimates predict ... More>>

ALSO:

RNZ: Fletcher Building To Lay Off 1000 Staff In New Zealand

The construction company will cut around 10 percent of its workforce as it struggles with the fallout from Covid-19. More>>

ALSO:

Can Pay, Won't Pay: Cashflow Moves Urged

Government Ministers are asking significant private enterprises to adopt prompt payment practices in line with the state sector, as a way to improve cashflow for small businesses. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Why We Should Legally Protect The Right To Work From Home

For understandable reasons, the media messaging around Level Two has been all about “freedom” and “celebration”, but this is not necessarily going to be a universal experience. When it comes to workplace relations, Level Two is just as likely to ... More>>

ALSO:



Auckland Airport: Thousands Of Kiwis Travelling For Queen’s Birthday Weekend


Confidence in domestic travel is beginning to steadily ramp up, with thousands of Kiwis travelling within New Zealand for Queen’s Birthday.
Nearly 400 flights will be operating to and from Auckland Airport over the long weekend... More>>

ALSO:

Science Media Centre: Understanding 5G Concerns – Expert Q&A


Recent attacks on cell phone towers have brought concerns over the rollout of 5G technology into sharp relief.
While scientific research has consistently shown that the technology does not adversely affect human health, public concerns about its impact have spread around the world, fueled in part by growing misinformation online. The SMC asked experts to comment... More>>

ALSO:


Trade: Record Monthly Surplus As Imports Dive

Imports in April 2020 had their biggest fall since October 2009, resulting in a monthly trade surplus of $1.3 billion, Stats NZ said today. “This is the largest monthly trade surplus on record and the annual goods trade deficit is the lowest ... More>>

ALSO:


Media Blues: Stuff Chief Executive Buys Company For $1

Stuff chief executive Sinead Boucher has purchased Stuff from its Australian owners Nine Entertainment for $1.
The chief executive was returning the company to New Zealand ownership, with the sale is expected to be completed by 31 May.
"Our plan is to transition the ownership of Stuff to give staff a direct stake in the business as shareholders," Boucher said in a statement.... More>>

ALSO:

RNZ: Bar Reopening Night 'much, Much Quieter'

Pubs and bars are reporting a sluggish first day back after the lockdown, with the fear of going out, or perhaps the joy of staying home, thought to be a reason for the low numbers. More>>

ALSO:

Stats NZ: New Zealand’s Population Passes 5 Million

New Zealand's resident population provisionally reached 5 million in March 2020, Stats NZ said today. More>>

NIWA: Seven Weeks Of Clearing The Air Provides Huge Benefits: Scientist

Seven weeks of lockdown has provided evidence of how pollution can vanish overnight with benefits for the environment and individuals, says NIWA air quality scientist Dr Ian Longley. Dr Longley has been monitoring air quality in Auckland, Wellington ... More>>

ALSO:

Government: Milestone In Cash Flow Support To SMEs

A significant package of tax reforms will be pushed through all stages in Parliament today to throw a cash flow lifeline to small businesses. More>>

ALSO: