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

  • Engstrom, CB, BB Raymond, J Albeitshawish, A Bogdanovic, and LM Quarmby (2024). Rosetta gen. nov. (Chlorophyta): resolving the identity of red snow algal rosettes. J. Phycology 60(2) DOI: 10.1111/jpy.13438. [Publication accompanied by an “Algae Highlight” focused on our work].
  • Engstrom, CB and LM Quarmby (2023). Satellite mapping of red snow on North American glaciers. Science Advances 9 (47) DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adi3268
  • Engstrom, CB, SN Williamson, JA Gamon, and LM Quarmby (2022). Seasonal dynamics and radiative forcing of red snow algal blooms in British Columbia, Canada. Remote Sensing of Environment October 2022. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rse.2022.113164
  • Yakimovich, KM and LM Quarmby (2022). A metagenomic study of the bacteria in snow algae microbiomes. Can. J. Microbiology, 5 May 2022 https://doi.org/10.1139/cjm-2021-0313.
  • Raymond, BB, CB Engstrom, and LM Quarmby. (2022) The underlying green biciliate morphology of the orange snow alga, Sanguina aurantia. Current Biology 32 (2): PR68-R69. doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2021.12.005.
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