. "3 Methods and Technologies to Address the Frontier Questions." Frontiers in Understanding Climate Change and Polar Ecosystems: Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2011.
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Frontiers in Understanding Climate Change and Polar Ecosystems: Report of a Workshop
metabolomics (analysis of the metabolites produced and consumed by a population of cells), and many others (e.g., ecogenomics, metagenomics, pharmacogenomics, toxicogenomics). Genome sciences make use of, and are integrated by, the related disciplines of bioinformatics and computational biology. These genomic approaches offer global or near-global overviews of gene lists, and gene and protein expression. Genomic profiles also enable the exploration of the genetic content of organisms that cannot be studied by classical genetic methods.
Genomic studies have been used to show how Antarctic fish species have evolved to their current diversity levels during the evolution of the Antarctic continent and can be used to evaluate diversity changes as polar ocean temperatures warm and acidify (Ritchie et al., 1996; Bargelloni et al., 2000; Verde et al., 2006). Environmental genomics has proved to be particularly important in the study of marine and terrestrial microorganisms, most of which remain uncultured (Kimura, 2006). The application of genome science to study diversity-function relationships in polar systems has been highly productive and questions such as which organisms are present (analogous to the white pages in a phone book) and what metabolic functions are involved in biogeochemical transformations (analogous to the yellow pages in a phone book) can now be addressed at the molecular level. For example, a genomic approach has been used to study the biogeochemical transformations of gases in Antarctic lakes (Priscu et al., 2008), the phylogenetic and metabolic diversity of organisms immured in north and south polar ices (Christner et al., 2006; Miteva et al., 2008), the diets of krill (Martin et al., 2006), and the response of phytoplankton changes in the Arctic Ocean to freshwater input resulting from climate warming (Lovejoy et al., 2007).
New, and relatively inexpensive, pyrosequencing methods are replacing traditional Sanger sequencing, allowing for enormous amounts of information to be generated from the entire genome of environmental samples (metagenomics). New developments in pyrosequencing are expected to double the number of base pairs per read within the next year. The enormous amounts of data produced from these exhaustively sequenced samples will require novel bioinformatic tools to convert the data into a format that can be used by scientists to include in ecosystem models that address evolution, diversity, biogeography, biogeochemistry, and metabolic capacity in response to climate driven environmental change.
Workshop participants noted that the ability to understand polar ecosystems and their linkages to the regional and global climate system has been intimately linked to ongoing collections of satellite imagery