Quarmby Lab

Summertime blooms of microalgae on snow cause "watermelon snow." We use the tools of genomics, bioinformatics, ecology and cell biology to study the algae, fungi, bacteria and other organisms comprising the the snow algae microbiome.

If you’ve hiked in the mountains or travelled to one of the poles, you’ve likely seen Watermelon Snow. Large swaths of orange, green, or most often, watermelon-red snow is a sign of a thriving microscopic community dominated by single-celled algae. Watermelon snow is not new: It appears in Captain John Ross’ report of the 1818 expedition in search of the NW Passage and in Charles Darwin’s report of his 1835 hike over the Andes. Because algal blooms reduce the albedo of snow, they accelerate the melting of seasonal snow fields. Alpine snow fields provide an important store of water for cities around the world. We want to understand the blooms and learn whether they are increasing in scope, duration, and intensity with global warming.

For more details, visit our lab website.



Lab Room:

SSB 7124

Lab Phone: 

(778) 782-4598

Selected Publications

  • Quarmby, L. (2020) Watermelon Snow: Science, Art, and a Lone Polar Bear, McGill-Queen's University Press. 
  • Engstrom, CB, KM Yakimovich, and LM Quarmby. (2020) Variation in snow algae blooms in the Coast Range of British Columbia. Frontiers in Microbiology 11: #569
  • Hilton et al. The kinases LF4 and CNK2 control ciliary length by feedback regulation of assembly and disassembly rates. Current Biology 2013
  • Parker et al. Centrioles are freed from cilia by severing prior to mitosis. Cytoskeleton 2010

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