Direct exploration of subglacial aquatic environments is required if we are to understand these unique systems. Exploration of subglacial aquatic environments should proceed and take a conservative approach to stewardship and management while encouraging field research.
Exploration protocols should assume that all subglacial aquatic environments contain or may support living organisms and are potentially linked components of a subglacial drainage basin.
As soon as adequate survey data have been gathered to provide a sound basis for description, all subglacial aquatic environments intended for research should be designated Antarctic Specially Protected Areas to ensure that all scientific activities are managed within an agreed international plan and are fully documented.
As soon as adequate survey data have been gathered to provide a sound basis for description, actions should be taken to designate certain exemplar pristine subglacial environments as Antarctic Specially Protected Areas for long-term conservation purposes.
Multinational projects should be encouraged in the study of subglacial aquatic environments, and all projects aiming to penetrate into a lake should be required to undertake a Comprehensive Environmental Evaluation.
The National Science Foundation should work in conjunction with the U.S. representatives to the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research and to the Committee on Environmental Protection to involve all Antarctic Treaty nations in developing a consensus-based management plan for the exploration of subglacial aquatic environments. This plan should seek to develop scientific understanding and ensure that the environmental management of subglacial aquatic environments is held to the highest standards.
The problem of how to penetrate kilometers of the ice sheet and sample subglacial aquatic environments in the cleanest and least intrusive manner possible remains a considerable technological challenge. Current drilling technologies are not sterile; drilling fluids may contain both microbes and substrates for microbial growth. In addition, the