Press Conference – ROICE 2015 has returned home, speech of Expedition Leader Dr. Cristina Purcărea

How is Antarctica? Beautiful, harsh, dominated by white-black-grey, sometimes very colorful, the place where two solitary partners – YOU and THE NATURE – meet.

We returned from Antarctica with the feeling of fulfillment, both professional and personal. We are researchers and we did our job with joy and enthusiasm, with responsibility and determination, and with the satisfaction of the recognition from our Korean partners and all the international research colleagues for both the project we initiated and for everything we have achieved during the ROICE expedition. It was extremely hard, but extraordinary at the same time. This only means that it was real research!

We thank everybody back home for having faith in the ROICE expedition and our team, for their support and for following us with their mind!

Research is something that is carried out WITH and OUT OF passion. It requires originality, determination, knowledge and a lot of work. Its beauty rarely comes out of the mountain of failed hypothesis and long hours of working in the lab. But it reaches the least places touched by human mind and hand, opening gates for understanding small and huge worlds, with a glow and restlessness hard to equal.

In the last decades, Antarctica has become not only one of the geographic poles of the Earth, but also one of the main poles of scientific investigations for understanding the limits of existence and life evolution, of micro and macrocosmos dynamics as response to the environmental long and short term changes. Nowadays, 50 states that have signed the Antarctic Treaty are conducting research activities in the 70 Antarctic stations throughout projects and programs of fundamental and applied research. Why microcosmos, the world of bacteria? Microorganisms have existed on Earth for 3.6 billion years. Considering that there are 1030 bacteria on Earth, it is obvious that the microbial diversity represents a scientific frontier, mostly so far unexplored.

Everything started with the vision and determination of Dr. Manuela Elisabeta Sidoroff, the general manager of INCDSB, together with the whole team from the Institute, particularly Ms. Tamara Anastasiu, to establish a partnership with the Korean Polar Research Institute (KOPRI) for organizing this Romanian scientific expedition and for launching Romania in Antarctic research projects.

The aim of our team’s research focused on studying the impact of climate change and pollution on the composition of the microorganisms’ community (bacteria, fungi, archaea) in glaciers ice and forefields, subglacial waters and snow from King George Island in the North-Vest of Antarctica. This molecular microbiological study consists of monitoring the dynamics of the microbial diversity at the ice/soil/water and air/snow/soil interface using cutting-edge techniques. Our investigations question the effect of glaciers retreat and of the polluting agents on altering the microbial communities’ composition in these ecosystems. From this perspective, King George Island being characterized by the most aggressive glaciers retreat for the last decades, and by the highest pollution dynamics in Antarctica, contains the most suitable icy habitats for our research directions. Therefore, the molecular microbiology studies started within the ROICE 2015 expedition represent an excellent opportunity for the Romanian research.

Our scientific project aims to also develop new directions of applicative research by identifying and isolating cold-adapted bacterial strains and enzymes that could be used in different bionanotechnologies, in pharmaceutical industry and medicine.

I am very happy that this collaboration project between INCDSB and KOPRI started as a particularly successful step, due to (1) the proposed groundbreaking ideas for Antarctic research, (2) the successful completion and financing of the ROICE expedition by INCDSB for starting a long term project, (3) a very productive ROICE 2015 Antarctic expedition concerning both the field trips sampling and lab processing activities, and the international appreciation of our team for our scientific ideas and on-site activities, and (4) the long-term scientific collaboration protocol signed for a five years period between INCDSB and the Korean partners from the KOPRI institute.

This promising start of Romanian research in Antarctica can efficiently be capitalized only by long term financing programs for conducting the required experiments and analyses, and for developing broader collaborative studies within this partnership.

Personally, I consider that the ROICE project could bring an important contribution to strengthen the Romanian international research position, and that INCDSB, the initiator of this project, could play an important future role in the Antarctic research by consolidating the established scientific partnership with the Korean Institute KOPRI.

Dr. Cristina Purcarea – Senior Scientist CS1

February 27, 2015, INCDSB

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