“Methanotrophy” addresses microbial oxidation of methane in sea ice covered waters. In shelf regions methane, a potent climate gas, is released from anoxic sediments or hydrates to the water column. During the ice covered seasons methane accumulates below the ice cover due to reduced sea air gas exchange. In addition, the sea ice provides a platform for a dense and thriving microbial community. We hypothesize, that in this setting microbial oxidation of methane will take place and so far these processes have only been scarcely studied in polar waters.
During April 2016 fieldwork was conducted by a team of three scientists from GSO in Barrow, Alaska. The determination of methane oxidation was paired with measurements of the physicochemical setting, and samples were collected to study the microbial communities and thier oxidation enzymes using molecular tools.
Back in the laboratory at URI GSO these samples will be processed for nucleic acid extraction for MiSeq sequencing and quantitative PCR (polymerase chain reaction). Target genes for analyses will be the 16S ribosomal RNA gene for biodiversity questions as well as the methane monooxygenase genes pMMO and sMMO, which are specific for methane oxidizers. Further experiments will be conducted in climate controlled rooms at URI GSO to investigate the influence of changing environmental parameters on the processes of methane oxidation.