During the global investigations of climate changes in various terrestrial and aquatic habitats, the ROICE 2016 studies aimed to investigate the effects of global warming and pollution regarding the biodiversity of the Antarctic microcosm from King George Island and the utility of this ecosystem as a resource for microorganisms with biotechnological applications. Equally, it was studied the effects and adaptations of the human body to extreme environments.
The research plan of the ROICE 2016 team was agreed by representatives of the Korean partners and provides 5 research themes as follows:
- Investigation of the impact of climate changes on the diversity of microbial communities and their role in balancing the glacial ecosystem following the glaciers melting;
- Study of microbial diversity in Antarctic habitants, with implications in the transfer of microbial strains and of pollutant agents;
- Isolation of microbial strains and extremozymes from Antarctica habitats of bionanotechnological applicative potential and investigation of their evolution and adaptation mechanisms;
- Study of the adaptation response of the human body to extreme conditions;
- Stable isotope analyses of the King George Island hydrological network for determining the water dynamics on this island in correlation with microcosm diversity.
The research themes approached ensure the continuity of the researches conducted in 2015. The fifth theme is a novelty element that is intended to be the beginning with a high potential for notable scientific results.
The research plan was developed by the expeditionary team, that consisted of five Romanian researchers.
The proposed activities of ROICE 2016 expedition are correlated with the objectives of Life Sciences and of the Geology Sciences (paleoclimatology) domains of the National Program for Antarctic Research 2014 – 2020, Romania, and with the SCAR Program.
The fieldwork of the entire ROICE 2016 team in Antarctica had the purpose of collecting samples of water, ice, subglacial water, snow and soil from 50 locations on King George Island, West Antarctica, totalizing about 300 samples. These were preliminarily processed in the laboratories of the King Sejong Research Station of the Korea Polar Research Institute for and transported for further processing in the laboratories of the National Institute for Research and Development of Biological Sciences and of the partners.
The samples processing at King Sejong Station of the Korea Polar Research Institute are:
- Filtration for DNA extraction (using Millipore 0.22 mm)
- Filtered water samples – Chemical analysis
- Cultures on liquid and solid environments (- 4°C, 15°C)
On the basis of these collected samples the following studies were carried out:
- Geochemical analysis;
- Morphology – electronic microscopy of sweep (SEM);
- Cultivation and isolation of cryotolerant and cryofilic strains;
- Structural diversity – 16S ARNr (bacteria/ archeea) and LSU ARNr (fungi):
- Sequencing Illumina Mi-Seq (Next-Generation Sequencing);
- Bioinformatics analyses;
- Phylogenetic analyses;
- Statistical analysis – diversity-chemistry correlation.
- PCR amplification and cloning – the study of extremisms from cryophilic bacteria (Rugamonas sp., Flavobacteria sp.);
- Isotopic analyses 2H/18O of water samples from the Antarctic lakes.
At the same time, they were carried out researches that consisted in studying the adaptation of the human body to the extreme conditions, which assumed:
- Investigating the adaptation of the human body to the Antarctic extreme environmental, by studying the human erythrocytes;
- Their viability was influenced by the extreme environment, this manifested by an accelerated process of senescence;
- For the accomplishment of this study, samples were taken from the expeditioners group before and after the expedition. The results were correlated with the weather conditions on King George Island during the expedition;
- Comparative studies have been carried out to determine the changes that occurred at the erythrocyte level for each subject.