Glacial ecosystems are the least explored sector of the biosphere, primarily because they are challenging to access and to work in. Tradtional methods for monitoring biogeochemistry cannot easily be used in glacial meltwaters, so the DELVE project aims to:

Testing oxygen sensors in Antarctica

The sensors must withstand extreme cold, freeze-thaw cycles, low ionic strength, high sedimentation, high pressure (for subglacial deployments, like Lake Ellsworth or Lake Whillans ) and be able to operate for months at a time without maintenance or calibration. We are testing a combination of commercially available sensors from Unisense, Ocean Optics, PreSens and Octopus Instruments alongside bespoke Lab-on-a-chip sensors designed by the Microsensors team at the National Oceanography Centre.

Testing sensors in a Greenland cryoconite hole

The sensors are fully tested and characteristed at low temperatures at Bristol Glaciology Centre's LOWTEX facility before testing in the field. Sensors are deployed in supraglacial meltwaters like cryoconite holes or cryolakes, which you can see in the photos above, or in glacial meltwater streams like the one below. The majority of our field testing takes place at the margins of the Greenland ice sheet.

Collecting meltwater samples in Greenland