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Karen Junge

Senior Oceanographer





Department Affiliation

Polar Science Center


2000-present and while at APL-UW

Subzero, saline incubations of Colwellia psychrerythraea reveal strategies and biomarkers for sustained life in extreme icy environments

Mudge, M.C., B.L. Nunn, E. Firth, M. Ewert, K. Hales, W.E. Fondrie, W.S. Noble, J. Toner, B. Light, and K.A. Junge, "Subzero, saline incubations of Colwellia psychrerythraea reveal strategies and biomarkers for sustained life in extreme icy environments," Environ. Microbiol., 23, 3840-3866, doi:10.1111/1462-2920.15485, 2021.

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1 Jul 2021

Colwellia psychrerythraea is a marine psychrophilic bacterium known for its remarkable ability to maintain activity during long‐term exposure to extreme subzero temperatures and correspondingly high salinities in sea ice. These microorganisms must have adaptations to both high salinity and low temperature to survive, be metabolically active, or grow in the ice. Here, we report on an experimental design that allowed us to monitor culturability, cell abundance, activity and proteomic signatures of C. psychrerythraea strain 34H (Cp34H) in subzero brines and supercooled sea water through long‐term incubations under eight conditions with varying subzero temperatures, salinities and nutrient additions. Shotgun proteomics found novel metabolic strategies used to maintain culturability in response to each independent experimental variable, particularly in pathways regulating carbon, nitrogen and fatty acid metabolism. Statistical analysis of abundances of proteins uniquely identified in isolated conditions provide metabolism‐specific protein biosignatures indicative of growth or survival in either increased salinity, decreased temperature, or nutrient limitation. Additionally, to aid in the search for extant life on other icy worlds, analysis of detected short peptides in –10°C incubations after 4 months identified over 500 potential biosignatures that could indicate the presence of terrestrial‐like cold‐active or halophilic metabolisms on other icy worlds.

Physical and optical characteristics of heavily melted 'rotten' Arctic sea ice

Frantz, C.M., B. Light, S.M. Farley, S. Carpenter, R. Lieblappen, Z. Courville, M.V. Orellana, and K. Junge, "Physical and optical characteristics of heavily melted 'rotten' Arctic sea ice," Cryosphere, 13, 775-793, doi:10.5194/tc-13-775-2019, 2019.

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5 Mar 2019

Field investigations of the properties of heavily melted "rotten" Arctic sea ice were carried out on shorefast and drifting ice off the coast of Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska, during the melt season. While no formal criteria exist to qualify when ice becomes rotten, the objective of this study was to sample melting ice at the point at which its structural and optical properties are sufficiently advanced beyond the peak of the summer season. Baseline data on the physical (temperature, salinity, density, microstructure) and optical (light scattering) properties of shorefast ice were recorded in May and June 2015. In July of both 2015 and 2017, small boats were used to access drifting rotten ice within ~32 km of Utqiagvik. Measurements showed that pore space increased as ice temperature increased (–8 to 0°C), ice salinity decreased (10 to 0 ppt), and bulk density decreased (0.9 to 0.6 g cm-3). Changes in pore space were characterized with thin-section microphotography and X-ray micro-computed tomography in the laboratory. These analyses yielded changes in average brine inclusion number density (which decreased from 32 to 0.01 mm-3), mean pore size (which increased from 80 μm to 3 mm), and total porosity (increased from 0% to > 45%) and structural anisotropy (variable, with values of generally less than 0.7). Additionally, light-scattering coefficients of the ice increased from approximately 0.06 to > 0.35 cm-1 as the ice melt progressed. Together, these findings indicate that the properties of Arctic sea ice at the end of melt season are significantly distinct from those of often-studied summertime ice. If such rotten ice were to become more prevalent in a warmer Arctic with longer melt seasons, this could have implications for the exchange of fluid and heat at the ocean surface.

Diversity and potential sources of microbiota associated with snow on western portions of the Greenland Ice Sheet

Cameron, K.A., and 8 others, including K. Junge, "Diversity and potential sources of microbiota associated with snow on western portions of the Greenland Ice Sheet," Environ. Microbiol., 17, 594-609, doi:10.1111/1462-2920.12446, 2015.

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1 Mar 2015

Snow overlays the majority of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS). However, there is very little information available on the microbiological assemblages that are associated with this vast and climate-sensitive landscape. In this study, the structure and diversity of snow microbial assemblages from two regions of the western GrIS ice margin were investigated through the sequencing of small subunit ribosomal RNA genes. The origins of the microbiota were investigated by examining correlations to molecular data obtained from marine, soil, freshwater and atmospheric environments and geochemical analytes measured in the snow. Snow was found to contain a diverse assemblage of bacteria (Alphaproteobacteria, Betaproteobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria) and eukarya (Alveolata, Fungi, Stramenopiles and Chloroplastida). Phylotypes related to archaeal Thaumarchaeota and Euryarchaeota phyla were also identified. The snow microbial assemblages were more similar to communities characterized in soil than to those documented in marine ecosystems. Despite this, the chemical composition of snow samples was consistent with a marine contribution, and strong correlations existed between bacterial beta diversity and the concentration of Na+ and Cl. These results suggest that surface snow from western regions of Greenland contains exogenous microbiota that were likely aerosolized from more distant soil sources, transported in the atmosphere and co-precipitated with the snow.

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Acoustics Air-Sea Interaction & Remote Sensing Center for Environmental & Information Systems Center for Industrial & Medical Ultrasound Electronic & Photonic Systems Ocean Engineering Ocean Physics Polar Science Center