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Microbial Life in Antarctica

  • Teacher Resource
  • Posted 05.10.12
  • NOVA

In this video excerpt from NOVA, visit one of the most extreme deserts on Earth—the dry valleys of the Antarctic—that resembles the surface of Mars. Watch as scientists drill into the Mars-like soil and ice, where they discover microorganisms in a film of liquid water at the point where the dirt meets the ice. In activity four from the education collection that accompanies this video, students match a microbe to an extreme environment in which it could live using cards that show extremophiles and some of Earth’s extreme environments.

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Supplemental Media Available: Education Collection (Document)

NOVA Microbial Life in Antarctica
  • Media Type: Video
  • Running Time: 1m 11s
  • Size: 4.1 MB
  • Level: Grades 6-12

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This media asset was excerpted from NOVA: "Finding Life Beyond Earth."

Questions for Discussion

    • How are the dry valleys of the Antarctic similar to Mars?
    • What did scientists discover when they drilled into the soil and ice in Antarctica?
    • How do you think the microorganisms found in this extreme environment differ from other species?


NARRATOR: These are the dry valleys of the Antarctic, one of the world's most extreme deserts. Here, beneath a layer of dry dirt, is buried ice, similar to Mars'. If life can exist here, could it exist on Mars too?

CHRIS MCKAY (ASTROBIOLOGIST, NASA AMES RESEARCH CENTER): We're doing, in the Antarctic, exactly what we want to do on Mars. We drill down into this Mars-like soil, we collect Mars-like ice, and what we look for, what we hope are Mars-like microorganisms.

NARRATOR: At the point where the dirt meets the ice, the team discovers a thin film of liquid water. And when they look at the samples under a microscope, to their surprise, there is something moving.

CHRIS MCKAY: We're finding, at the ice, there is life, which is quite remarkable.

NARRATOR: Microorganisms thrive in this thin film of water, but only for a short time.

CHRIS MCKAY: They spend most of the year frozen and dormant, and they're only active for a few weeks each summer, when temperatures get warm.

Resource Produced by:

					WGBH Educational Foundation

Collection Developed by:

						WGBH Educational Foundation

Collection Funded by:


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