Documenting the Microbial Community on Mt. Rainier

Karina Caprez, University of Puget Sound


Glaciers are home to a unique biota; however, these organisms which have amazing capabilities to survive in such an extreme environment still remain vastly unstudied and the unique ecosystem that they make up is relatively unknown. I conducted a comprehensive study on the microbial community inhabiting the top 2 cm of snow or firn of the Paradise Glacier on Mt. Rainier, a Pacific Northwest temperate glacier. My research aimed to establish the species composition and densities of the microbial community, provide information about glacial ecosystem dynamics and serve as a foundation for ice worm ecology. Ice worms come to the glacier surface during dusk to forage for bacteria and algae in the top layer of snow. 16s rRNA gene sequencing was attempted in hopes to identify which bacterial and algal taxa are most common and estimate a phylogeny for the microbial life on these glaciers in which ice worms are present. It is clear that most of the nutrient inputs on glaciers come from windblown debris and the microbial community yet very little is known about the nutrient flow through glaciers. With the use of stable isotope analysis I plan to evaluate how nutrients flow through the glacial food web to gain a better understanding of the role of the microbial community in glacial ecosystems where ice worms are present.