‘Omics-enabled advances in understanding Antarctic life.


Omics technologies are powerful tools that open windows into the underpinnings of life in Antarctica. Genomic and metagenomic sequencing capture evolutionary histories and encoded capabilities, while profiling expression at the RNA and translated protein levels and detecting resultant metabolites can be indicative of bio(geo)chemical form, function, and biological interaction.

These technologies provide critical information on biological adaptation, revealing the mechanisms of how Antarctic life has evolved to cope with and mitigate the harsh extremes required for survival in Antarctic habitats. They also serve as harbingers of the resilience levels and thresholds that Antarctic life can endure as cascades of climate-driven change ripple through ecosystems with myriad implications.

The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine’s (NASEM) 2015 Strategic Vision for Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research envisioned an Antarctic genomics initiative that would catalyze the science needed to decode the genomic and functional bases of organismal adaptation in changing environments across the spectrum of Antarctic life (Priority II in the Strategic Vision). In response to this initial vision and subsequent Mid-Term Assessment of progress (2021), in which community organization was highlighted as a critical need, this Workshop will bring together a diverse community of life scientists to identify high priority research question(s) with the goal of unifying the Antarctic life sciences community around an actionable initiative which will catalyze transformational science surrounding an understanding of Antarctic life in the face of change.

The Challenge

Antarctica harbors many ecosystems with some of the greatest extremes in climatic conditions on Earth. Over the past > 30 million years the Antarctic biota have evolved concomitantly to adapt to these conditions. As a result, rich biota exist today that have diversified, adapted, and interact with one another and the environment on both the continent and in the Southern Ocean. Thus, Antarctica is an incredibly valuable natural laboratory to study diversification, evolution, and adaptation to change

  • Improving the state of knowledge of Antarctic life at the genome-level is an urgent need.
  • Life in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean is particularly susceptible to climate change as many Antarctic ecosystems lie at critical (e.g., temperature, nutrients, light) thresholds where shifts in ecological balance are threatened. There is a critical need to Identify key vulnerable organisms and ecosystems.
  • Antarctic genomics and related ‘omics data sets require development of cyberinfrastructure tools, training opportunities and improved data resources to facilitate research, communication and shared data access.
  • Improved understanding of Antarctic biota will help scientists predict how these organisms and the ecosystems they inhabit may respond in the future. Experimental and field-based studies are needed to inform predictive modeling studies.

About The Event

The organizing committee has planned a 2-day virtual workshop October 18-19th. The workshop will be facilitated with the help of KnowInnovation, a company that specializes in working with science groups to accelerate scientific innovation and achieve outcomes. The agenda is under development, but will be interactive, discussion and solution based, with background reading materials provided in advance, and with a few short and targeted plenary lectures to set the scientific stage.

Who Should Apply

First and foremost, those interested in catalyzing this Antarctic ‘omics technology-inspired initiative to transform understanding of Antarctic life in the face of anticipated ecosystem changes are encouraged to participate. The workshop is open to US Antarctic life scientists in addition to an interdisciplinary cadre of those with expertise in evolutionary biology, genomics and other ‘omics technologies, bio(geo)chemistry, experimental physiology, comparative biology, bioinformatics and data science, for example.

How To Apply

Space is limited so be sure to apply early! Attendance for the entirety of the workshop on October 18 & 19 from 8-14:00 PDT/11-17:00 EDT is expected to ensure a productive, results driven event. Participants will work to establish priority question(s) and research proposal concepts in this hands-on workshop.

Complete Application >>

Event Outcomes

Workshop report: At the conclusion of the workshop participant inputs will be synthesized and organized into a report that will both be shared with the NSF, workshop participants and the scientific community.

Community building: Development of a networked interdisciplinary life sciences community interested in solving Antarctic research problems.

Initiative concept development: Though working together in the workshop, we aim to identify a unifying, synthetic research theme upon which to focus this initiative.

Gaps and challenges synthesis: Discussions across the diversity of Antarctic life, ecosystems, ‘omics technologies and informatics resources will strive to identify common challenges and knowledge gaps.

Working group formation: Activities will facilitate the development of collaborative teams for future proposal submissions.

Organizing Committee

  • Alison Murray, Desert Research Institute, NV, (Chair), alison.murray@dri.edu
  • Rauri Bowie, University of California, Berkeley, CA, bowie@berkeley.edu
  • Patrick Chain, Los Alamos National Laboratory, NM, pchain@lanl.gov
  • Allyson Hindle, University of Nevada Las Vegas, NV, Allyson.hindle@unlv.edu
  • Rachel Morgan-Kiss, Miami University, OH, morganr2@miamioh.edu
  • Rachel O’Neill, University of Connecticut, CT, rachel.oneill@uconn.edu
  • Tatiana Rynearson, University of Rhode Island, RI, rynearson@uri.edu
  • Oscar Schofield, Rutgers University, NJ, oscar@marine.rutgers.edu
  • Arvind Varsani, Arizona State University, AZ, Arvind.Varsani@asu.edu

More Information

For any agenda or technical issues, please contact Donnalyn Roxey. If you have questions regarding the report or content, please contact the lead PI, Alison Murray.