Autonomous year-round sampling and sensing to explore the physical and biological habitability of permanently ice-covered antarctic lakes

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© 2014, Asociacion Geologica Argentina. All rights reserved. The lakes of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, are some of the only systems on our planet that are perennially ice-covered and support year-round metabolism. As such, these ecosystems can provide important information on conditions and life in polar regions on Earth and on other icy worlds in our solar system.Working in these extreme environments of the Dry Valleys poses many challenges, particularly with respect to data collection during dark winter months when logistical constraints make fieldwork difficult. In this paper, we describe the motivation, design, and challenges for this recently deployed instrumentation in Lake Bonney, a lake that has been the subject of summer research efforts for more than 40 years. The instrumentation deployed includes autonomous water, phytoplankton, and sediment samplers as well as cable-mounted profiling platforms with dissolved gas and fluorometry sensors. Data obtained from these instruments will allow us, for the first time, to define the habitability of this environment during the polar night. We include lessons learned during deployment and recommendations for effective instrument operation in these extreme conditions.

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Marine Technology Society Journal

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