Palmer with ice corer during research project.

UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) student Katelyn Palmer spent this past summer conducting research in Greenland. The microbiology and cell science senior worked under UF/IFAS Microbiology and Cell Science Associate Professor Brent Christner. Their work focused on observing microbial colonies found in Greenland and their endurance within the extreme climate. 

The lab conducted field work on the Greenland Ice Sheet. Some of Palmer’s responsibilities included collecting water samples and ice cores. These samples were then used to look at DNA, RNA and chlorophyll. 

Palmer and the lab team collaborated with several scientists, including geologists, hydrologists, and biologists. She also assisted with performing lab procedures. Cell enumeration and culturing were common microbiology techniques the team utilized.

“Through the collection of this data, we can understand how diverse the communities of the ice are and understand how the communities change as the ice melts,” said Palmer. 

Ice core slice sample used in Palmer’s research.

Through the Significance of Ice-loss to Landscapes in the Arctic (SILA) project, Palmer’s research is part of an international initiative. The initiative investigates the effects melting ice and future deglaciation will have on the landscape and biology of Greenland.  

With this research experience, Palmer found a passion for fieldwork. Her work this summer inspired her to pursue an undergraduate honors thesis. She hopes to study the capability of life to survive in brines in the subsurface ice of Ocean Worlds. 

“The bacterial cultures I intend to characterize will also be used for a project aiming to design a microscope that could function and detect microbial life on Europa or Enceladus someday,” said Palmer. 

Palmer’s goal as an undergraduate student has been to build a research career centered around microbiology and cell science. Specifically, she is interested in looking at applications for life on other planets. Through the VP Promise, Palmer moved closer to that goal while having the experience of a lifetime.  

“My experience this summer was enlightening and empowering in the most amazing way. As I enter my senior year, I am excited by the prospect of a future that will allow me to work in a field that I love. Not only that, but I am excited to join the global community of scientists devoted to the search for life in the universe,” said Palmer.  

The VP Promise is an initiative to provide financial assistance for students pursuing experiences in agriculture, life sciences and natural resources. CALS supports student success both inside and outside of the classroom and encourages students to broaden their perspectives through enriching opportunities such as study abroad programs and travel to conferences. For more information on the VP Promise visit the CALS website.

by Jessica Czipulis

Source: UF/IFAS Pest Alert

Note: All images and contents are the property of UF/IFAS.

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