ICOM: Ice-Cold Microorganisms Environmental Laboratory

PROJECT LEADERS: Mette M. Svenning and Matthias Forwick
HOST: iC3 (SFF), Dept of Geosciences
PERIOD: 2017-2018 (extended to 2023)

Microorganisms are the oldest inhabitants of Earth, and as such, their interaction with the environment determines the state of the planet and the health of all its inhabitants. Their presence and activity are essential for ecosystems, life and climate. Funding from TFS provides us with an opportunity to build a new and unique infrastructure (Ice-Cold Microorganisms Laboratory: ICOM), to investigate and decipher key functions that control microorganism communities and release of the greenhouse gas methane in the Arctic.

Fragile and complex networks of microorganisms control the release of greenhouse gases such as methane from land and sea floor. But climate changes can destabilize those networks, which can result in increase of natural release of methane into the atmosphere.

ICOM will enable studies on how microbial communities work at temperatures close to 0°C, how they interact and response to methane under
controlled temperature changes. The laboratory is expected to lead to breakthroughs in Arctic microbial ecology knowledge, and with changing cold temperature regimes, pinpoint the changing relationships among microbes and activity. ICOM is closely related to another TFS funded project “Cells in the cold“.

The establishment of ICOM is a cross disciplinary effort by UiT scientists from the centre of excellence CAGE at The Faculty of Science and Technology, and The Faculty of Biosciences, Fisheries and Economics.