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A microscopic approach to investigate bacteria under in situ conditions in sea-ice samples

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Microbial populations and activity within sea ice have been well described based on bulk measurements from melted sea-ice samples. However, melting destroys the micro-environments within the ice matrix and does not allow for examination of microbial populations at a spatial scale relevant to the organism. Here, we describe the development of a new method allowing for microscopic observations of bacteria localized within the three-dimensional network of brine inclusions in sea ice under in situ conditions. Conventional bacterial staining procedures, using the DNA-specific fluorescent stain DAPI, epifluorescence microscopy and image analysis, were adapted to examine bacteria and their associations with various surfaces within microtomed sections of sea ice at temperatures from −2° to −15°C. The utility and sensitivity of the method were demonstrated by analyzing artificial sea-ice preparations of decimal dilutions of a known bacterial culture. When applied to natural, particle-rich sea ice, the method allowed distinction between bacteria and particles at high magnification. At lower magnifications, observations of bacteria could be combined with those of other organisms and with morphology and particle content of the pore space. The method described here may ultimately aid in discerning constraints on microbial life at extremely low temperatures.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2001

More about this publication?
  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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