Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society

Dr Karen Cameron

Department / group: School of Geographical & Earth Sciences
Personal URL: N/A

Research interests:

My research focuses on the ability of microbial communities to consume and cycle chemical elements. In particular, I’m facinated at how biogeochemical processes occur within glacial environments, in spite of the cold, nutrient poor and challenging light conditions that they can face. Communities throughout these environments are connected through hydrological flows, so what happens in one area of the glacier has the potential to impact downstream glacial habitats, or adjoining periglacial, fjord and marine environments. As climate warming continues to redesign these extensive, temperature sensitive ice masses, I’m intrigued to study the regional and global ecological consequences of this escalating event.

Some of my research focuses include:
The role that microorganisms play in facilitating the flow of chemical elements into and through ecosystems and their connected downstream environments.

The geobiological relationship between glacial or periglacial habitats and their microbial communities .

The distribution and connectivity of glacial microbial communities locally, regionally and globally, and the implications of this on ecological function.

The relationship between the environment and microbial communities, and the impact that climate warming may have on future ecological functioning

Career history:

May 2020 – present: Lecturer in Biogeosciences, University of Glasgow, School of Geograpgical and Earth Sciences.

Oct. 2016 – Apr. 2020: Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions COFUND Fellow, Aberystwyth University, Institute of Biological, Environmental & Rural Sciences (IBERS) and Centre for Glaciology – MEGARISE: Molecular Ecology of Glacial Albedo-Reducing Ice Surface.

Jan. 2014 – Jan. 2016: Postdoctoral researcher, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), Department of Geochemistry and University of Copenhagen, Centre for Permafrost Ecology (CENPERM) – The molecular microbial ecology of supraglacial environments.

Jan. 2011 – Mar. 2013: Research Associate, Polar Science Center, University of Washington, Seattle – Biogeochemistry of subglacial environments and microbial ecology at sub-zero temperatures.

Sept. 2006 – May 2010: PhD candidate, The University of Sheffield, Animal and Plant Sciences – Molecular microbial ecology of supraglacial environments. “Microbial community structure, diversity and biogeochemical cycling in Arctic and Antarctic cryoconite holes.” Supervised by Prof. A. Mark Osborn and Prof. Andy Hodson..

Active research projects:

MEGARISE: Molecular Ecology of Glacial Albedo-Reducing Ice Surface
Glacial environments are rapidly diminishing, resulting in sea level rises that will greatly impact societies worldwide. Pigment filled microbiota, residing on glacial surfaces, have been found to enhance melt through albedo reduction. However, little is known about the form and function of the microbial communities that reside on these exposed ice surfaces. The aim of MEGARISE is to characterize the composition and function of microbiota sampled from low-albedo bare ice surfaces, with a goal towards understanding their role in surface ice albedo reduction and their potential response to a changing environment.

Recent publications:

Edwards, A., Cameron, K. , Cook, J. M., Debbonaire, A. R., Furness, E., Hay, M. C. and Rassner, S. M.E. (2020) Microbial genomics amidst the Arctic crisis. Microbial Genomics, (Early Online Publication; doi: 10.1099/mgen.0.000375)

Cameron, K. , Müller, O., Stibal, M., Edwards, A. and Jacobsen, C. (2020) Glacial microbiota are hydrologically connected and temporally variable. Environmental Microbiology, (Accepted for Publication; doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.15059)

Williamson CJ, Cameron KA, Cook JM, Zarsky JD, Stibal M, Edwards A. (2019) Glacier algae: a dark past and a darker future. Front Microbiol 10: 524. IF 4.019 (doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2019.00524)

Gokul JK, Cameron KA, Irvine-Fynn TDL, Cook JM, Hubbard A, Stibal M, Hegarty M, Mur LAJ, Edwards A (2019) Illuminating the dynamic rare biosphere of the Greenland Ice Sheet’s Dark Zone. FEMS Microbiol Ecol 95: fiz177. IF: 3.495 (doi: 10.1093/femsec/fiz177)

Ryan JC, Hubbard A, Stibal M, Irvine-Fynn TD, Cook J, Smith LC, Cameron KA and Box J (2018) Dark zone of the Greenland Ice Sheet controlled by distributed biologically-active impurities. Nat Coms. 9: 1065. IF: 12.353 (doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-03353-2

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