LV Sketchbook Page 044
Sketchbook page 044 takes molecular biology for its subject, an area that fascinated the earliest Antarctic explorers. Today, molecular biologists and biochemists are at the forefront of studying Antarctica’s environmental changes in our era of global warming. The Southern Ocean around the Antarctic Peninsula is predicted to rise between two and five degrees Celsius over the next two centuries, bringing radical change to marine organisms ranging from single-celled microbes to fish. Presently these Antarctic creatures’ body temperatures fall in a very narrow range — from -1.9 to +2 degrees Celsius — to which they have adapted over a period of 50 million years. Sudden temperature increases will bring a shock to their physiological systems with unknown consequences.
To gain insight into how warming waters might affect the development of fish embryos and their growth after hatching, marine biologists are raising various species in both current water temperatures and at the projected higher temperatures. In the process, they analyze the fishes’ physiology and biochemistry using state-of-the-art lab equipment. One instrument, a high-throughput automatic DNA sequencer, allows scientists to observe organisms from their basic biological building blocks using digital data and visualization tools. Through such technology and experimentation, researchers aim to provide policymakers and the public with data to inform decision-making in regards to climate change and protecting life in Antarctic waters.