The Antarctic lakes in the Vestfold Hills near Davis are full of small surprises. Scientists are using molecular genetic techniques to develop a detailed ecological picture of the lakes’ microbial communities, as many of the viruses and bacteria detected in the lakes cannot be cultured in a laboratory.
Marine invertebrates such as sea urchins, crustaceans and molluscs are also being used to study the impact of environmental change and pollution on Antarctic marine ecosystems.
A range of atmospheric research projects are conducted at Davis. These include investigating climate and the characteristics of the Antarctic atmosphere using the LIDAR (light detection and ranging) instrument and a range of other atmospheric instruments.
In 2015, scientists initiated a study measuring algae growth in the fast-ice off Davis using an underwater remotely operated vehicle. Ice algae is an important food source for tiny marine herbivores such as zooplankton. As a result, ice algae growth and distribution may influence the location of suitable foraging habitat for predators, such as penguins and seals.
Antarctic marine microbial communities — bacteria, phytoplankton and protozoa — are the base of the food web and support all life in the Southern Ocean. However, the concentration of carbon dioxide predicted in seawater by the end of this century may dramatically change the composition of these communities. To investigate the effects of increasing carbon dioxide concentrations on marine microbes, scientists have established 'minicosm’ experiments in shipping containers on the shore at Davis station.
Davis and Casey stations are also used as a base for the International Collaboration for Exploration of the Cryosphere through Aerogeophysical Profiling (ICECAP) project, which is using airborne geophysical instruments (radar, laser, geomagnetic and gravity instruments) mounted in a Basler aircraft, to study the bedrock geology and structure of the East Antarctic ice sheet, and its glaciological processes.