Allowances should be made for certain objects and materials to be placed into experimental subglacial aquatic environments for scientific purposes—for example, for monitoring or tracing dynamics. These additions should follow the microbiological constraints in Recommendation 7 and include discussion of environmental risk versus scientific benefit analysis as required by the Comprehensive Environmental Evaluation.
As the initial step to define an overall exploration strategy, the United States, together with other interested parties, should begin immediately to obtain remote sensing data to characterize a wide range of subglacial aquatic environments. As a second step, preliminary data and samples should be obtained from subglacial aquatic environments as soon as practicable to guide future environmental stewardship, scientific investigations, and technological developments.
Remote sensing of the potential aquatic environments beneath the Antarctic ice sheet is underway but is far from complete. The following actions should proceed in order to make a decision about which subglacial aquatic environments should be studied in the future:
Once potential research sites are identified, the likelihood of attaining scientific goals should be evaluated based on the representativeness for other lakes and settings, for accessibility, and for the constraints of logistics and cost. 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 assess whether the levels of cleanliness suggested in Recommendation 7 are appropriate.
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:
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.