Citizen Science and the Biology of Pink Snow
Laura Hilton, Life Sciences, Teaching Fellow (Cell and Molecular Biology)
For decades, scientists have appreciated the role of bright, white snow on our glaciers and polar ice caps in reflecting energy from the sun to keep the planet cool, an effect known as albedo. As the snow melts due to climate change, the albedo decreases, warming the planet further in a dangerous runaway warming and melting cycle. But we have only recently come to realize the importance of “bio-albedo”: tiny, single-celled, pink-coloured algae that inhabit almost every snow surface on the planet, darkening the snow and amplifying its melting. This talk will explore the fascinating microbial world of snow and ice, highlighting collaborations between my research team and citizen scientists to understand the biology of pink snow on our local glaciers and in the arctic.