- B.Sc., M.Sc. University of British Columbia
- Ph.D. University of Connecticut
Single-celled Green Algae grow in thin layers of melt-water on snow and ice. Under conditions yet to be defined, these algae synthesize secondary red pigment granules, giving snow a red hue and reducing albedo (reflection of sunlight) to 40%. The lower albedo increases local temperature, promoting snow and ice melting. The red pigment may also protect the algae from UV radiation and/or improve growing conditions for the algae. Perplexingly, only dormant spores appear red while the rapidly growing cells lack the secondary red pigment. One of our goals is to explore life history regulation of some of the more abundant species of snow, ice and permafrost.
We are also working to illuminate the interspecies relationships that support growth in the harsh conditions of nutrient impoverishment and low temperature. Snow algae live intimately with a community of bacteria, viruses and various microscopic eukaryotes. We hypothesize that photosynthate secreted by the algae in the form of mucus provides the foundation of fixed carbon to sustain the microbial community. We seek to understand the cellular and molecular bases of the mutualistic and commensal relationships that capture micronutrients, resist dessication and possibly provide a form of innate immunity or defense against parasitic microbes. The work will provide a foundation for understanding similar relationships in the related ecosystems of snow & ice in alpine regions and in Antarctica.
For over two decades, our group has done cell biology using the lab rat of Green Algae, Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Through our work on cilia and the cell cycle we made discoveries that help us understand the fundamental machines of cellular life and the etiology of several human diseases. The Quarmby lab is well positioned to undertake this important new interdisciplinary project at the interface of cell biology and ecology.
For more details, visit our research lab website.