Research

Research programme

The research programme carried out at the station is focused on long-term monitoring of the environment and multidisciplinary investigations. The multidisciplinary character of the research programme is determined by its focus on a complex study of one of the largest deglaciated area in Antarctica (the coastal Antarctic oasis with significant research potential). Both its abiotic and biotic components are studied, as well as their relationship and the functioning of the entire system, including predictions of its further development. The scientific programme includes fields of Earth Sciences (geology, geomorphology, palaeontology, geochemistry and analytical chemistry, climatology, and hydrology), a number of biological disciplines (in particular botany, ecology, eco-physiology, plant stress physiology, microbiology, parasitology and soil biology) and technical sciences as well (e.g. advanced polymers, UV-radiation resistance, etc.).

Atmospheric Sciences

Climate – Glacier Working Group

Climate – Glacier Working Group is composed of experts and students who are interested in various research topics dealing with polar meteorology, climatology, hydrology, and glaciology. Our research activities are focused on modelling and understanding the atmosphere and climate in the Antarctic, impacts of climate change on streams and lakes, and how the climate processes interact with glaciers systems. Our group manages the long-term monitoring of atmospheric parameters and climate conditions on James Ross Island and other localities in the Antarctic Peninsula region. We further carry out intensive glacier monitoring, including mass balance measurements, glaciological and georadar survey of the land-terminating glaciers mainly. The working group members have close collaboration with the world’s leading universities and research institutions focused on the polar climate and glaciers. We also contribute to global climate, glacier and environmental databases: PANGAEA, SoilTemp, World Glacier Monitoring Service, World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre.

The main research topics include:
– long-term monitoring of climate conditions and atmospheric processes in the region of Antarctic Peninsula
– numerical modelling of atmospheric circulation and boundary layer processes, including extreme weather events
– studies on climate variability, climate change and its impact on the Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems
– numerical modelling and reconstruction of solar UV radiation and ozone layer
– study on surface energy exchange, interactions of microclimate, soil and vegetation
– mass balance changes and sensitivity of land-terminating glaciers to recent climate change
– study of surface water fluxes in the proglacial areas and glacio-hydrological dynamics

Senior scientists:
Assoc. Prof. Kamil Láska, PhD
Assoc. Prof. Daniel Nývlt, PhD
Jarmila Burianová, PhD
Jan Kavan, PhD

Students:
Klára Čížková
Marek Lahoda
Michael Matějka

Geo-Sciences

Geoscientific group Our geoscientific group has a broad scope of research activities within the fields of permafrost and active layer monitoring, periglacial geomorphology and palaeoclimatology.
One of the most important activities of the group is a long-term monitoring of the thermal state of permafrost and active layer and a study of the effects of atmospheric warming on the periglacial environment. While working primarily at field sites on James Ross Island, we collaborate closely with other researchers and our results therefore have a significant overlap to other regions within the Antarctic Peninsula. Further, we contribute to several global databases SoilTemp (Lembrechts et al., 2020), Global Cryosphere Watch and Ground Terrestrial Network – Permafrost.

The main research topics include:
– numerical modelling of spatiotemporal variation of the active layer and permafrost dynamics
– study of paraglacial and periglacial processes and their dynamics including the formation of present landscape
– measurement and analysis of soil physical and biogeochemical properties
– study of the past and present status and evolution of Antarctic lakes
– (palaeo)communities of diatoms, archaeas and bacterias and their response to climate warming
– comparison of lake records-derived climate and environmental changes with James Ross Ice Cap ice core record
– deglaciation chronologies and reconstruction of past glacial processes from sediments and landforms
– sediment budget and material transport by glacial, fluvial and aeolian processes

Senior scientists:
Filip Hrbáček, PhD
Assoc. Prof. Daniel Nývlt

Students:
Jakub Holuša
Michaela Kňažková
Lucia Pastíriková
Matěj Roman

Plants & Ecology

Research on structure and function of vegetation components of James Ross Island has been carried out mainly in the field of stress physiology of Antarctic autotrophs, their capability to survive in has Antarctic terrestrial environments. Special respect has been devoted to the responses of extremophilic organisms such as lichens, algae and cyanobacteria to particular environmental stressors. Moreover, the responses of polar algae, cyanobacteria, lichens and mosses to ongoing climate changes, especially atmospheric warming are studied both in the field by special installations and in laboratory-based experiments (Open top chamber approach, long-term measurements of dissolved oxygen in small-area freshwater ponds) and in laboratory-based experiments. Apart of global warming effects on photosynthesis and production of selected representatives of Antarctic vegetation, the underlying physiological mechanisms activated in Antarctic autotrophs by low and sub-zero temperature, UV-B light, desiccation and photoinhibition by photosynthetically-active radiation are studied as well (Extreme environments Life Laboratory). Last but not least, selected Antarctic microautotrophs isolated from the samples collected at the James Ross Island (algae, cyanobacteria) are cultivated either on agar plates (Collection of autotrophs) or liquid media in order to optimize their growth protocols using a photobioreactor approach, and identify the driving factors of their growth.

The main topics involved into recent research directions
• Stress physiology of Antarctic autotrophs
• Primary photosynthetic processes in Antarctic autotrophs
• Application of advanced biophysical methods in Antarctic plant physiology (chlorophyll fluorescence, spectral reflectance, thermostability measurements)
• Antarctic Autotrophs Taxonomy and Ecology
• Low and Freezing Temperature effects (including cryoresistance)
• Collection of Autotrophs, their Cultivation and Productivity Potential (WG4)
• Radiation biology of Antarctic Autotrophs
• Structure and function of biological soul crusts with a special respect to autotrophs
• Vegetation mapping by AUV and spectral reflectance indices analysis

Senior scientists:
Prof. Miloš Barták
Peter Váczi, Ph.D.
Josef Hájek, Ph.D.
Michaela Bednaříková, Ph.D.
Alla Orekhova, Ph.D.
Kumud Bandhu Mishra, Ph.D.
Kateřina Trnková, Ph.D.

Plant physiology

Plant physiology has a permanent place in the Czech Antarctic research programme. Field research has been performed since the beginning of scientific activities on James Ross Island. In 2007, open-top chambers (OTC) were built in selected localities in the northern part of the island in order to study the response of vegetation cover components, especially mosses and lichens, to global warming. The Laboratory staff have been monitoring three sites in the James Ross Island at long term research plots (LTRP) for over a decade. Main direction of research is evaluation of vegetation cover changes on control plots and the sites where the open top chambers (OTCs) were established. On the sites, microclimate is monitored over a year. Physiological characteristics of dominant vegetation constituents such as mosses (Bryum pseudutriquetrum) and lichens (Xanthoria elegans, Umbilicaria decussata) are monitored during austral summer season by chlorophyll fluorescence technique based on saturation pulse method and the evaluation of effective quantum yield of primary photosynthetic processes in photosystem II. On the Long-Term Research Plots, vegetation health and species composition change over time is studied as well.

Using year-round measurements of microclimatic and physiological parameters, it was found that the extent of artificially induced warming using the OTC structure depends mainly on the nature of the studied habitat (vegetation oases, rocky surface of table mountains, glacier foreground). The habitat character is the main factor controlling artificially induced warming. Analysis of microclimate data identified several short periods during the Antarctic winter, when the surface temperature rises above 0oC. During these periods, mosses and lichens change their state from a dormant to a physiologically active state.

In addition to terrestrial vegetation, small lakes and their biological activity are constantly monitored as a part of long-term plant physiology projects. Temperature sensors are installed in the water column of small-area freshwater ponds (measuring all year round) and oxygen electrodes (installed during the Antarctic summer). It was found that in the period and the Antarctic summer, water is saturated with oxygen due to photosynthesis of freshwater microalgae and cyanobacteria. During the period of approaching Antarctic winter, when the surface of the ponds freezes due to a drop in temperature, daily cycles of changes in the concentration of oxygen in the water are clearly distinguishable, which indicates an increased oxygen consumption by the pond microorganisms.

Great attention is paid to the study of the components of the vegetation cover of the island, both from a taxonomic point of view (description of species forming biodiversity of algae, cyanobacteria and lichens) and gradual building of a collection of autotrophic organisms grown on agar media. Recently, the occurrence of the unicellular green alga Macrochloris rubrioleum was first described for James Ross Island and its basic physiological characteristics were studied. Similarly, several sites of occurrence of Solorina spongiosa, an extremely rare lichen species for Antarctica were found and are regularly monitored on the sites.

The terrestrial ecosystems of the island are studied in terms of description of structurally functional units forming vegetation oases. These are monitored both by traditional ground studies and by means of drones equipped with special cameras. Using the latter approach, mosaic-like patterned areas were distinguished on long-term research plots. Spectral reflectance method are used to indicate not only the species-specific composition (for example, areas covered with a certain species of moss, lichen, cyanobacterial colonies) but also their functional state using spectral reflectance indices. These can determine not only whether these organisms are in an optimally hydrated state, but also whether they are physiologically active at the observed moment. This area of research is followed by accompanying laboratory experiments, which use the parameters of spectral reflectance to determine the resistance of the studied Antarctic autotrophic organisms to environmental stressors.

The group of plant physiologists from MU Brno is very active in the study of the resistance of Antarctic algae, cyanobacteria, mosses and lichens to desiccation stress, short and long-term effects of cold and frost, excessive irradiation with photosynthetically active radiation and UV radiation. The species showing extreme resistance to these factors have been identified. The plant physiologists have described the involvement of various protective physiological mechanisms in the anti-stress response using biophysical methods. Among them, chlorophyll fluorescence in vivo should be mentioned since it represents one of the main research directions focused on structure and function of Antarctic poikilohydric autotrophs. Within last decade, photosynthetic parameters of several representatives (Nostoc commune, Trebouxia sp., Dermatocarpon polyphillizum, Umbilicaria decussata, Usnea antarctica, Usnea aurantiaco-atra, Sanionia uncinata, Bryum pseudotriquetrum, Brachythecium austro-glareosum) have been studied, their response to stress factors in particular. Last but not least, selected algal strains are used in controlled cultivations in low-volume photobioreactors in order to evaluate their optimal growth protocols. For such purpose, coupled measurements of photosynthetic oxygen evolution and chlorophyll fluorescence parameters are used.

Microbiology

Our microbiological research on James Ross Island focuses on monitoring, taxonomy and experimental studies of bacteria and microscopic fungi. Studied microorganisms are annually isolated either from diverse abiotic sources or from oral mucus layer and faeces of Antarctic animals.
Our group intensively studies bacterial component of heterotrophic and cold-adapted microbiomes in various freshwater sources including rivulets, streams, lakes and temporary lakes. We further explore biodiversity of heterotrophic bacteria colonizing inorganic materials in Antarctic environment such as permafrost and its active layer, permanently shaded rocks, lakes sediments and cryoconites representing unique microbial hotspots. In addition, within our research we specifically target bacterial isolates producing compounds with antimicrobial properties, a promising alternative to synthetic antibiotics and possible solution for constantly raising microbial resistance. Our mycological research is focused mainly on diversity of rock-inhabiting fungi. Apart from cultivation-based activities, we are also study permafrost and lake sediments microbial communities through metagenomics (emphasizing domains Bacteria and Archaea in James Ross Island environment).

The main research topics include:
– biodiversity of bacteria, mainly psychrotrophic and heterotrophic, isolated from abiotic sources
– taxonomy of photosynthetic microorganisms (cyanobacteria, diatoms, limnic microalgae) isolated from Antarctic environment
– studies on cold-adapted fatty acids, enzymes and pigments
– “safety Antarctica” – complying with regulations and measures to avoid/minimize introduction of non-native species to Antarctica and import of zoonoses from Antarctica to South America
– studies on potential pathogens colonizing oral mucus layers of selected Antarctic animals (seals, penguins, elephant seals, sea lions and skuas)
– studies on potential of natural probiotics in faeces of sea animals
– studies on diversity, taxonomy and physiology of microscopic fungi colonizing porous rocks

Senior scientists:
Prof. Ivo Sedláček
Assoc. Prof. Pavel Švec, Ph.D.
Stanislava Králová, Ph.D.
Monika Laichmanová, Ph.D.
Dana Nováková, Ph.D.

Students:
Tereza Cahová
Blanka Hýžová
Vendula Koublová
Anna Manová
Gabriela Suková

CzechPolar Reports

Czech Polar Reports is an international, multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal related to polar science. It is issued 2 times a year. Publisher of the journal is MUNI Press (Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic). The journal is dedicated to provide original research papers for sciences perfomedin the Arctics and Antarctics, high moutains, and the planets with polar analogues. The journal is published both electronically and in printed version. Electronic papers are freely donloadbale from the journal webpage: link: https://journals.muni.cz/CPR/.
The journal is indexed in SCOPUS and other databases. According to RESURCHIFY database, the Czech Polar Reports is a journal covering the technologies/fields/categories related to Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous) (Q3); Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous) (Q3); Environmental Science (miscellaneous) (Q3). It is published by EMUNI Press. The overall rank of Czech Polar Reports is 17822. According to SCImago Journal Rank (SJR), this journal is ranked 0.226. SCImago Journal Rank is an indicator, which measures the scientific influence of journals. It considers the number of citations received by a journal and the importance of the journals from where these citations come. SJR acts as an alternative to the Journal Impact Factor (or an average number of citations received in last 2 years). This journal has an h-index of 7. The best quartile for this journal is Q3. The impact score (IS) 2020 of Czech Polar Reports is 0.61, which is computed in 2021 as per its definition.

University Courses

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Databases

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