Wednesday, December 17, 2014

stripped back cellulose

Cellulose as made by plants is a complex material that mankind has used for all kinds of applications for millennia. Only in the 20th century synthetic materials increasingly replaced it, mainly because the plastics can be tailored to any material property required. Now, however, as plastic waste is becoming a global problem and sustainable solutions are in high demand, researchers are rediscovering cellulose and stripping down its complexity, resulting in so-called nanocellulose. With these structural building blocks of natural cellulose, they can then construct composite materials to rival the synthetic ones.

I've written a feature about nanocellulose which is out in the December issue of Chemistry & Industry:

Nature's building blocks
Chemistry & Industry December 2014, pp 18-21
(premium content, but I can send PDF "reprints" on request)

On page 51 of the same issue you'll find my review of the book "The economic competitiveness of renewable energy - pathways to 100% global coverage, by Winfried Hoffmann.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

the trouble with animals

It's all very well having animals around as food or for company, but the trouble is that we pick up diseases from them, and those can be deadly, especially in the initial phase after jumping across to our species. At the end of the year in which Ebola hit the headlines for months, I've discussed the wider problem of zoonotic disease and the lessons to be learned from the failure to tackle Ebola in time to stop it running out of control.

Our shared burden of diseases

Current Biology Volume 24, Issue 24, pages R1139–R1141, 15 December 2014 Abstract and limited access to full text and PDF download

(I can send PDF "reprints" on request, and the article should become freely accessible one year after publication)

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

seasonal offerings

My German pieces published in December are embarrassingly seasonal - there is ice and snow aplenty in a feature about the subglacial biosphere of Antarctica, and the target of my regular fun-poking is Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), which is known in Germany as Weihnachtsstern (christmas star). That's quite enough xmas for me, I don't want to hear it mentioned again until next year ...

Mikrobielle Artenvielfalt unter dem Eis der Antarktis
Nachrichten aus der Chemie 62, 1186-1187, 2014
[related content in English]

Die Wissenschaft vom Weihnachtsstern
Nachrichten aus der Chemie 62, 1251, 2014

Monday, December 01, 2014

how to feed the world

The world population keeps growing, more people want better diets, and climate change puts food production at risk. All these global trends mean we as a civilisation will have to act now to make sure we will still have enough food in the next few decades.

Plant science can offer crucial support for this quest in a number of ways. Improvements in crop yield through genetic engineering are a controversial route, but even by tracking down wild relatives of crop plants and feeding their desirable traits into the gene pool by conventional breeding, plant scientists can help to improve global food security. Importantly, bridges must be built between fundamental research in plant science and the applied research in agriculture.

These issues are covered in some detail in my latest feature which is out today:

Plant science called up to provide food security

Current Biology
Volume 24, Issue 23, pR1105–R1108, 1 December 2014
abstract and limited access to full text and pdf
(should become open access one year after publication)

The feature was inspired by this special issue of the American Journal of Botany (October 2014):

Monday, November 17, 2014

go wild

Back in October, I attended the Earthwatch debate on rewilding, which offered an interesting range of perspectives on the issue - and was followed by an enthusiastic audience with a majority in favour of reintroducing carnivores like lynx and wolf to the UK.

I've distilled my impressions into a feature which is out in Current Biology today:

How wild do you want to go?

Current Biology Volume 24, Issue 22, pR1067–R1070, 17 November 2014

Abstract and limited access to full text and PDF download
(will become freely accessible one year after publication)

(My own photo of the event, Kate Humble giving the introductory speech.)

Monday, November 10, 2014

the butcher, the baker ...

... I'm actually short of a candlestickmaker in this story, but I have a few other interesting trades, so bear with me:

Until around a decade ago, I believed I was the first person in the family to be born in the small town of Kirn, by the river Nahe. While 3/16 of my ancestors hail from the surrounding hills of the Hunsrück, they seem to have studiously avoided the river valley with the towns Oberstein, Kirn, Sobernheim, and Kreuznach.

Then we discovered one ancestor who was born at Kirn more than 300 years before me (in 1654, to be precise), and she turned out to be related to the Andres family, who went on to found the local brewery (Kirner Pils), which is still thriving today, bucking the trend that has seen much larger companies dominating the beer market. They do make very good beer, as well, so I’m glad they’re still there (and still in the hands of the Andres family).

After pulling various threads attached to that family we have now got a whole network of ancestors who were crafts and tradesmen in Kirn, going back to the mid-15th century. There were butchers, bakers, tanners, weavers, plus the extinct profession of Schleifmüller, which I’ll explain below. For two centuries they had a thriving small town economy there – even though Kirn only officially became a town much later (1857) and the inhabitants had to pay to get their freedom in 1600. Then, however, the plague arrived in 1606, closely followed by the 30-years war (1618-1648), devastating the whole community. During the war, the number of households in Kirn fell to one tenth of what it had been before (230 to 22). Just after the war, as some refugees returned, there were 74 households, and the population would take until 1800 to recover, by which time my ancestors were long gone.

Here are, in chronological order, some of the things we think we know about our ancestors in this little community in its heyday until darkness fell.


In generation 17, born between 1440 and 1470, we have three households. Henn (Henrich, Hen) Kub (Koben) married Katharina Hensels around 1465. Not sure what they did for a living, but from the next generation onwards the Kubs are bakers, so let’s assume that. From 1481 to 1488 Hen Koben was mayor (Schultheiß) of Kirn. He lived in a house in the Adelsgasse that will later be home to the Creutzer family, below. Today this street is called the Nahegasse, and it's the tangent on the West side of the market square, so it's at the very heart of the historic centre of the town.

Second, a tanner called Steffen, which in some sources is given as his last name and in others as his first name, with Lauer, an old-fashioned word for tanner, as the last name. At this time, the use of family names was still fluid, and we have several examples of people switching between their father’s first name, their profession, and a nickname, as a family name. Steffen’s daughters called themselves Lauer, so let’s stick with the name under which you’ll find him in GIB, i.e. Stephan Lauer. His wife is Katharina (Ketter) Wöllenstein (Wolfstein, Wellstein), they married around 1495. (Strictly speaking, we don't know where this family lived - research is ongoing.)

Third, a “Schleifmüller” called Contz Schmidt, meaning he had a water mill and used the power to sharpen tools and possibly swords as well. People working at a Schleifmühle were also referred to as smiths, so his last name may reflect this. He obtained a heritable leasehold for his mill in 1468 – this is the earliest firmly established date in all of our family history. While there is nothing left of the mill, the millstream is still there, so one can guess the location.


One generation down the line (born 1470-1490), we have the descendants of the above plus a few newbies. New kids on the block in generation 16 are the tanner Hen(rich) Culmann and his wife Catharina Treger.

Henrich Kub’s son was a baker called Hans Kub, but he seems to have kept a low profile, as that is all that we know about him.

The tanner Stephan Lauer had two daughters whose first names we don’t know. The one we care about married another tanner called Lauer, Simon Lauer, who came from Gemünden, some 20 km north of Kirn in the Soonwald, and by the Simmerbach which joins the Nahe just downstream of Kirn.

The other Lauer daughter married a man called Wöllstein (note the similarity to her mother’s name, Wöllenstein, but no link established yet), and went off to Becherbach, just a few kilometres south of Kirn, where she had a daughter, who would later marry her first cousin, the son of the older Lauer girl and Simon Lauer, called Johannes Simon – where, again, the father’s first name became the family name for a lineage that remained present in Kirn through to the 20th century.

Contz Schmidt had three sons, one of whom called himself Theiß, which became the family name of his descendants, and which is now quite a widespread name in the area. Of interest to us, however, is the first-born called Conrad Schmidt, who expanded his father’s business. In 1524 he is recorded as the owner of two mills and a house in the Steinweg, the northern extension of the Adelsgasse.


In Generation 15 (born 1500-1520) we have three households, and as we are following the daughters of the smiths and the tanners, we are saying good-bye to these professions and focus on food production.

Around 1525, Eulalia, the daughter of the tanner Hen(rich) Culmann and Catharina Treger married the earliest known male ancestor of the Andres lineage (of brewery fame) to show up in Kirn, a butcher who is variously also known as Endres Metzler (referring to his profession). Eulalia was the oldest of five children, who all went on to have their own families. Two of the sons became butchers under the family name of Pass, which was their father’s nickname. Of the at least 16 grandchildren of Culmann/Treger, one marries Hans Theiß, grandson of Contz Schmidt, another Johannes Simon, grandson of Simon Lauer. Both marriages are not part of our relevant lineages, showing that there are multiple cross-links between these families.

The Kub kept their passion for baking, as Adam Kub was a baker like his father, and he married Anna Simon, daughter of Simon Lauer and the nameless older Lauer girl.

Finally, the nameless Schmidt girl married another baker called Ulrich Emich. Now that is an interesting name, because the former lords of the Kyrburg, the castle overlooking the town, came from a family whose firstborn sons were called Emich throughout the 11th and 12th century. I need to investigate what exactly it means when this name turns up as the family name of an ordinary citizen two hundred years later. Confusingly, another Ulrich Emich worked at the castle around the same time, and there have been earlier Emichs in the services of the counts of the Kyrburg, specifically Wilhelm Emich was Sekretarius there 1568-1577, and as a reward for his faithful service, he received a house in the Steinweg, close to where the Kub and the Schmidt people mentioned above lived as well, which could count as circumstantial evidence that he is in fact linked to these townspeople.

Ulrich Emich later (around 1570) married a second woman, who is called Wellstein in one source and Anna Wolfstein in another (AIS). The latter source claims that she was the mother of the Emich daughter we’re interested in, but if the marriage date is correct, this would appear implausible, so we’re sticking with the Schmidt girl. (Although the Wellstein ancestors reach one generation further than the Schmidt ones and yield another person resident in the Adelsgasse.)


In generation 14 (born 1525-1560 ), we have three households again, featuring a wool weaver and two butchers.

The woolweaver is a new arrival called Jean (Johann) van Dham (later: Dammi) from Malmedy, a town near Liege, in today’s Belgium (then it was a small church territory), or possibly from St. Vith, in the district of Malmedy. Von Dhams lived in St. Vith over many generations, but are believed to have come from Fels (Larochette) in Luxembourg originally. Intriguingly, there is an earlier von Dann family of wool weavers recorded in Kirn from 1530 onwards, and I have a suspicion they come from the same source.

The butcher Uli Andres, son of Eulalia Culmann and Andres Metzler, married Sabine Kub, the baker’s daughter.

The nameless daughter of the other baker, Ulrich Emich, married the butcher Jakob Creutzer ,who lived in Hen Kub's house in the Adelsgasse. They had three children in 1580-1585, but she must have died then, as he married again and had another three children with his second wife.


Generation 13 (born 1550-1590), the field is narrowing, and we can begin to see where all this is leading …

The immigrant wool weaver brought along a son called Hans Dammi, who worked as a cotton weaver. He married Elisabeth, the widow of Urban Welsch, who was also a wool weaver, but we don’t know her background. The name Welsch also points to a migration background, it essentially meant “foreign”, and one online genealogy claims that he is also from Malmedy, so at first I thought he may have received the moniker on arrival at Kirn. However, as the Malmedy area was also German speaking, and there are Welsch families in that area to this day, I now think that the name is due to an earlier migration event and he already lived in Malmedy under that name, which would be helpful in tracing down his family connections there. After Hans Dammi’s demise Elisabeth married a third time in 1614, this time the lucky man was another wool weaver called Matthes Wilhelm.

Merten Andres, still following in the butcher tradition, marries the competitor’s daughter, Katharina Creutzer. Her brother Georg Matthias Creutzer keeps the butcher shop going and becomes mayor in 1635, as does Katharina’s son Jakob Andres ten years later.


In generation 12 we have the winning couple (born 1614/1619):

While the Andres sons march on to butcher shop, inn-keeping, and finally beer brewing glory, we follow daughter Anna Margareta Andres who marries the weaver Johann Dammy, son of Hans.

They seem to have been of the robust sort – having lived through the thirty-years war and a return of the plague, he reached the age of 78, and she was 80 or 81 years old when she died in 1700.

Johann Dammy was mayor in 1676 (it was obviously the thing to do, in those circles). A local historian also mentions that after the war ended in 1648, and there were no funds to restore the public bath houses by the river, Johann Dammy rented the huge copper kettle that had become redundant and used it to dye his fabrics.

The couple only married in 1651, when they were both well over 30, but given the hardship the town suffered in the thirty-years war, they probably waited to make sure that it was really safe to do so. They had five children born in 1652 and 1666. The second of them, Elisabeth, was the last of my direct ancestors to be born in Kirn. In 1682, she married Matthes Wilhelm Schüler, an innkeeper in Kirchberg, and moved there. Although her brother Johann Jakob Damme had several sons, the name disappeared from Kirn, no person with this name appears to have been born there after 1700.

One hundred years later, Johann Jakob Andres began brewing beer for other inns as well as his own. Two hundred years later, his grandsons Philipp and Carl Andres launched the brewery as large scale business.

The tanners, including the Simon family, also went on to do well, and in the 19th century, leather factories became one of the key industries of the town.


Image source: Wikipedia.

Monday, November 03, 2014

Nicaragua Canal

One hundred years after completion of the Panama Canal, plans for a new, larger shipping route across Central America is dividing opinion. In my latest feature I have looked both at the economic opportunities for one of the poorest countries of the area, and at the dangers to biodiversity and ecosystems.

Will the Nicaragua Canal connect or divide?

Current Biology Volume 24, Issue 21, pR1023–R1025, 3 November 2014

Abstract and restricted access to full text
(It will become freely accessible one year after publication.)

Source: Wikimedia.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

gene therapy comeback

The idea of treating diseases by fixing faulty genes was big in the late 90s, but then suffered some serious setbacks. Thanks to new vectors and a broader spectrum of disease targets, the approach is now making a comeback and one treatment has already gained official approval in the EU.

Read all about it in my latest feature:

New hopes for gene therapy
Current Biology Volume 24, Issue 20, pR983–R986, 20 October 2014

abstract and restricted access to full text and PDF
(It will become freely accessible one year after publication.)

The book of life - a printout of the human genome on display at the Wellcome Collection, London. Own photo. (I was considering to use this picture with the feature, but didn't have space for it in the end.)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

useful anarchy

Intrinsic disorder in proteins has fascinated me ever since 1997, when Kevin Plaxco asked me to co-author a News & Views piece (1) on what was then an emerging topic. By now it is an established scientific phenomenon feeding a whole research community, so I even had the opportunity to attend a conference about it a few years ago, and write a feature for Chemistry World among other articles.

We now know that intrinsically disordered proteins play an important role in nature. Quite a few of them work in molecular recognition and can achieve specific binding by “folding around” their target. Others are medically relevant. For instance, there are disordered domains (an oxymoron for the protein folding crowd to chuckle or argue about) in virus proteins and in transcription factors that are important targets for cancer drugs.

If nature can find use for disordered sequences, maybe scientists can also use them in molecular design? Kevin’s group at the University of California at Santa Barbara has now demonstrated an intriguing approach in which disordered sequences (of DNA, this time) can make a receptor more cooperative, meaning more likely to bind a second molecule once it has bound the first (2). The best known natural example of molecular cooperativity is the binding of oxygen to haemoglobin in our red blood cells – it can carry up to four molecules, and each position filled increases the affinity of the remaining ones. The attraction, for haemoglobin as for biotechnologists, is that cooperative binding has a much sharper transition, switching from all empty to all full in a narrower range of concentrations than a non-cooperative receptor would.

But how do you force a receptor to be cooperative if it isn’t naturally inclined to do this? What first author Anna Simon and colleagues in the Plaxco lab did was to cut the receptor (a DNA aptamer in this work, but it should in principle be possible with proteins as well) in two halves, then duplicate each half. If you think of a complete working receptor as a pair of robotic hands that can grab a ball, they glued two left hands together and two right hands, but a connected pair of left and right was needed to carry out the desired function. They then connected the ends of the left and right construct with a DNA sequence that prefers to be disordered.

Bringing one pair of robot hands together to grab one ball comes at a cost, as the disordered DNA linker loses entropy (i.e. opportunities to adopt many random conformations) when its two ends are brought closely together. Once the first ball is firmly grabbed, however, and this entropic fee has been paid, the second pair of hands is suitably arranged in close proximity and ready to grab the second ball without having to pay any entropic costs for that. Thus, as in haemoglobin, the second binding event is much more favourable than the first.

Image: Anna Simon / ref. (2)

Simon et al. tried this out with three different DNA receptors, from a primitive one binding mercury ions to a sophisticated aptamers for the molecules cocaine and doxorubicin, and found that all showed some cooperativity, and one receptor, the one for doxorubicine, gave results within the error margins of the values that theory predicts for perfect cooperativity.

Seeing this works with all three DNA receptors tested, it should also work with others and could also be transferred to proteins. In fact, a recent paper suggests that nature also uses this trick in proteins already (3). Then it could be expanded to more than two binding sites, and it would be good to have high-resolution structures of these constructs to analyse their function in detail. The application of disorder in molecular engineering may be a whole new research field that has just been born.


(1) K. W. Plaxco and M. Groß, Nature 1997, 386, 657.
(2) A. J. Simon et al, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 2014, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1410796111
(3) A. C. Ferreon et al., Nature 2013, 498, 390.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

a schnapsidee

... is the kind of inspiration that you only have after a few glasses of schnaps, and which may turn out not quite so inspired once you've sobered up. The idea to produce alcoholic drinks in powder form sounds like it could qualify for this label in more than one respect, as I discussed in September's Ausgeforscht column. On a more sober note, the round-up of German pieces published in September/October also includes fake graphene, neonicotinoids, and shark antibodies. Something for every taste, really.

Pulverisierte Schnapsidee
Nachrichten aus der Chemie 62, No. 9, 951

Variationen zum Thema Graphen
Chemie in unserer Zeit Volume 48, Issue 5, page 329, DOI: 10.1002/ciuz.201490059
Abstract and limited access to full text
related content in English

Sorgenkind systemischer Pflanzenschutz
Nachrichten aus der Chemie 62, No. 10, 991
related content in English

Haie geben Einblick in die Evolution des Immunsystems
Spektrum der Wissenschaft No. 10, 12
Summary and limited access to full text
related content in English

own photo

Monday, October 13, 2014

Klundt Clan

Migration in my family tree normally works like this – direct ancestors coming in (eg from Wallonia), and aunts/uncles going out (eg to Brazil). There is one married couple of direct ancestors, however, who emigrated to Russia and stayed there for the rest of their lives (to make matters worse, many of their great-grandchildren later emigrated to the US). Fortunately, their firstborn son and his family stayed in Germany, otherwise I wouldn’t be here now and you might be staring at an empty screen. So here comes a story of fearless migrants and wine makers:

Johannes Klundt was born November 2nd 1759 in Wollmesheim, a village near Landau in the Southern Palatinate, a traditional wine growing region, the second of five children of Konrad Klundt and Maria Johanna Bodang (this name appears to be a palatinate distortion of the French name Bonnedame). His parents had a very small vineyard there (just half a hectare), and some 3.5 ha other agricultural land. Splitting this between him and his older brother would have left too little for either party to survive.

Johannes married Eva Hust (1762-1837) in 1781 – she may also have a migration background, as the name Hust is almost non-existent in Germany, but there are lots of them in France and Belgium. They had five sons and a daughter, born between 1782 and 1805.

Moving out

At the beginning of the 19th century, the Russian Tsars actively encouraged settlers from southwest Germany to move to the Odessa area at north coast of the Black Sea, which was then a new addition to the Russian empire and is today part of Ukraine. A village called Rohrbach (today: Новосвітлівка - Novosvitlivka), some 120 km north-northeast of Odessa, was built in 1805 and German settlers, including my ancestors Johannes Klundt and Eva Hust arrived there in 1806, after a journey of 80 days, most of which was done by ship (specifically, in improvised wooden boxes that were used one-way only) down the Danube.


So who came along and who stayed behind? When Johannes Klundt left, his parents were no longer alive. We know that of his five sons, the first one, Johann Jacob (1782-1853; my four-times-great-grandfather), stayed behind. He had already set up his own family in nearby Godramstein, with his wife Katharina Barbara Müller (1781-1813) from that village and his son Georg Nicolas (1805-1851) who was to become a farmer and wine maker.

The second, Wilhelm (* 1785) was still unmarried and came along. Their only daughter Eva Catharina (* 1792) and two younger sons, Heinrich (1797-1851) and Johann Michael (1801-1876) were still children when the Klundts emigrated, so they came along by default and lived their lives in the German colony near the Black Sea. We don’t know what happened to the other son.

Johannes’s older brother Johann Jacob (1756-XXX) presumably inherited the modest house and land of Konrad Klundt and worked as a cooper and farmer. (There are two family vineyards called Klundt in neighbouring Mörzheim today (led by Sven Klundt and Walter Klundt), but we’re not sure exactly how they are related to this family.)

Intriguingly, one of the many Klundt descendants in Rohrbach, Heinrich’s granddaughter Katherina Klundt (1857-1949) later married a man called Johann Hust, who was also born in Rohrbach, which makes me think that a brother or cousin of our Eva Hust may have emigrated together with the Klundt family. We don't really know much about Eva Hust's family at all, except the names of her parents, so we don't know whom she left behind or may have taken along for the ride.

The four children who came along to Rohrbach between them provided Johannes and Eva with 26 grandchildren, who all (except one) appear to have stayed in the Odessa area all their lives. (Intriguingly the three sons contributed 13 grandsons carrying the name onwards). When Johannes died in 1833, and Eva in 1837, they left behind a healthy and thriving clan that seemed to have established itself in its now environment.

The village economy in general seemed to be doing well in those times, according to this report. Villagers grew large amounts of wheat, but also held sheep and produced some wine. The population of the village grew from 602 in 1816 to 1581 in 1859.

Moving on

From 1871 onwards (with a ten-year transition period), the colonists lost the privileges that they had enjoyed for two generations, and life on the Black Sea suddenly looked a lot less attractive. Apart from the loss of financial incentives, the young men were also facing the obligation of six years service in the Russian army. Thousands of German settlers emigrated again. The population of Rohrbach peaked in 1894, then dropped by a third, mainly as a consequence of migration to the US. Of the more than 60 great-grandchildren of our founding couple, at least 12 emigrated to the US, where they kept the reproduction rate up, so there must be hundreds of descendants of the Klundt families from Rohrbach in the US and also in some other parts of the world. They are listed here by a descendant of Heinrich and here by a descendant of Eva, but I haven't counted.

In 1884, Jacob Klundt (1855-1939), the eldest of Johannes's great-grandchildren, and his wife Maria Lutz (1854-1939) with their children (three were born in Russia, but not sure if all three survived) took the lead and emigrated to Mitchell County, South Dakota. Then they moved to the city of Alexander, South Dakota. Jacob’s mother, Juliana Kulatus (1835-1925), five brothers and one sister, Katherina (the one who married Johann Hust) joined them there in 1889. As the remaining three siblings and their father Heinrich Klundt had died before the emigration, this means the entire surviving clan moved to the US, where Juliana became a proud grandmother of 50. A bunch of Johann Michael’s grandchildren also emigrated to the US between 1893 and 1907, as did a few scattered individuals and families across the board. They had a lucky escape, because the 20th century held disaster in store for those settler families who stayed in Russia.

In 1889, the combined Klundt families moved to Dakem, North Dakota, on three covered wagons. During the years in South and North Dakota, Jacob Klundt and Maria Lutz had another eight children. They tried to establish a farming business there, but found the climate too different from what they were used to on the shores of the Black Sea.

Thus, in 1902, Jacob’s family (with ten children) migrated further west to Franklin County, Washington, where they bought land near the Snake River, north of the town of Walla Walla, from a Mr Page – after whom the location was named in 1903. Conrad’s family followed them, while Katherina and the other brothers stayed in North Dakota.

Until 1919, the Klundts ran a ferry across the river as well as their farm. Jacob’s son Charles Klundt became the first postmaster of Page when a post office was installed in 1903, later to be followed by two of his brothers.

The Klundts also set up a shop, a church, and fisheries. They also established a modest vineyard of two acres and actually produced wine. This makes me think that they probably handed down their wine-making traditions over the generations since they left the palatinate, and also grew vines in Rohrbach. For a more detailed account of their lives in the US, see the historical sketch provided on this page. The village of Page no longer exists, sadly, as it disappeared under water in 1961, when a dam was built on the Snake River. But there are a lot of vines growing on the slopes near the Snake river nowadays, and maybe the Klundts have something to do with that.

So the bottom line is I have every excuse to obsess about wine, it runs in or veins …

Note: Alternative spellings of the name in old records include Clund, Klund, Chlundt.

Monday, October 06, 2014

science in antarctica

I had a feature on the shrinking arctic sea ice a couple of years ago, so here comes the southern counterpart. Apart from the concerns over climate change and loss of continental ice, I'm also looking at the recent investigation of biotopes in the subglacial lakes and their importance for astrobiology.

Shrinking ice caps in the spotlight

Current Biology Volume 24, Issue 19, 6 October 2014, Pages R941–R944
DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2014.09.040

abstract and limited access to full text and PDF file
(should become free access one year after publication)

A mosaic of satellite images of Antarctica taken by RADARSAT-2.

Credit: RADARSAT-2 Data and Products © MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (2008) All Rights Reserved. RADARSAT is an official mark of the Canadian Space Agency. (PR)

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