sediments. To achieve this type of observatory, there is a need for probes that transmit data back to the ice surface and devices to provide clean access to the lake water for future sampling. Technological advances are needed for clean sediment sampling that will not disturb the water column.

Recommendation 13

Research and development should be conducted on methods to reduce microbial contamination throughout the drilling, sampling, and monitoring processes, on methods to determine the background levels of microbes in glacial ice and lake water, and on development of miniaturized sampling and monitoring instruments to fit through the drilling hole. The following methods and technologies need to be improved or developed:

  • A standard method to ensure cleanliness for drilling, sampling, and monitoring equipment that can be verified in the field;

  • New ways of drilling through the ice sheet that include drilling fluids that would not be a substrate for microbial growth;

  • Inert tracers in the drill fluids or fluids used to enter the lake to track the level and distribution of contaminants within the lake;

  • Methods to determine baseline levels of microbes in the glacial ice and subglacial waters;

  • Instrumentation scaled to fit through a bore hole, to measure chemistry and biology of these environments and transmit data back to the ice surface;

  • Methods to provide clean access to the lake water for extended periods.

The committee recognizes that plans are underway to sample Lake Vostok, and in the longer term, Lake Ellsworth and Lake Concordia. The data collected from these endeavors should be used to better assess the requirements of future methodologies and technologies.


This report provides an initial framework for the environmental stewardship for exploration of subglacial aquatic environments. Recommendations are based on current understanding of these environments, which is limited and incomplete. As the science and exploration of subglacial environments grow beyond their infancy, the initial methodologies and protocols recommended in this report will need further development and regular revision on both a national and an international scale.

All aspects of management, stewardship, and project review and approval will continue to involve absolute requirements mandated by the Antarctic Treaty, government standards specific to particular parties, and scientific standards such as those recommended by SCAR. The recommendations of the committee are thus intended for integration into this important multifaceted framework.

An overview of the committee’s recommendations and a suggested sequence and framework to address the key areas of importance for subglacial lakes—stewardship, management, and project review is shown in Figure 6.1, definitions are in Box 6.1. This framework is deliberately consistent with the guidelines of the Antarctic Treaty,

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