Trista Vick-Majors

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Trista Vick-Majors
Alma materBA in Biology, Colorado College (2003)

MSc, Montana State University (2010)

PhD, Montana State University (2016)
Scientific career
Microbial ecology
InstitutionsBSc Colorado College
PhD Montana State University
Assistant Professor Michigan Technological University

Trista Vick-Majors is an American Assistant Professor in Biological Sciences at Michigan Tech. She is an Antarctic biogeochemist and microbial ecologist, best known for her work showing that microorganisms are present under the Antarctic ice sheet. [1]


Early life and education

Vick-Majors grew up in Calhan, Colorado and completed her BA in Biology at Colorado College in 2003. Vick-Majors spent two years studying the microbial ecology of hot springs at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and graduated with her MSc from Montana State University in 2010. Vick-Majors earned her PhD in Ecology and Environmental Sciences from Montana State University in 2016. [2]

Vick-Majors’ MSc work focused on the responses of heterotrophic microorganisms to the onset of the polar night in Antarctica, [3] [4] while her PhD focused on microbial ecology and biogeochemistry in Subglacial Lake Whillans and under the McMurdo Ice Shelf. [5] [6]

Career and impact

Vick-Majors is a biogeochemist and microbial ecologist with interests in carbon biogeochemistry, polar environments, aquatic ecology, and subglacial ecosystems. [7] Vick-Majors began working in the Antarctic in 2008 as part of an International Polar Year-funded project to study ecosystem responses to the Antarctic Polar Night – the first expedition of its kind, [8] [9] and has since been involved in Antarctic expeditions to the McMurdo Dry Valleys, the McMurdo Ice Shelf, Subglacial Lake Whillans in West Antarctica, and to the Ross Ice Shelf. [10] [11]

Vick-Majors was part of the first field team (the Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research and Drilling project (WISSARD)) to successfully obtain samples from an Antarctic subglacial lake. [10] [12] Her work with WISSARD showed that microorganisms are present under the Antarctic ice sheet. [1]

Vick-Majors has contributed to the advancement of early career researchers in the polar sciences through her work with the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists [13] and to public education and outreach efforts, [14] [15] [16] and the popular press. [17] [18]

Awards and honours

Vick-Majors was awarded the American Fellowship by the American Association of University Women in 2014, to support her dissertation work and in recognition of her commitment to helping women and girls through service to her community. [19] [20] Vick-Majors has also been a fellow of the Institute on Ecosystems (2014 and 2015) [21] and the Montana Space Grant Consortium. [22] In 2015, she received the American Society for Microbiology Travel Award ($500) and the Institute on Ecosystems Graduate Research Fellow ($750). [23]

Selected bibliography

Related Research Articles

Lake Vostok Antarcticas largest known subglacial lake

Lake Vostok is the largest of Antarctica's almost 400 known subglacial lakes. Lake Vostok is located at the southern Pole of Cold, beneath Russia's Vostok Station under the surface of the central East Antarctic Ice Sheet, which is at 3,488 m (11,444 ft) above mean sea level. The surface of this fresh water lake is approximately 4,000 m (13,100 ft) under the surface of the ice, which places it at approximately 500 m (1,600 ft) below sea level.

McMurdo Dry Valleys Snow-free valleys in Antarctica

The McMurdo Dry Valleys are a row of largely snow-free valleys in Antarctica, located within Victoria Land west of McMurdo Sound. The Dry Valleys experience extremely low humidity and surrounding mountains prevent the flow of ice from nearby glaciers. The rocks here are granites and gneisses, and glacial tills dot this bedrock landscape, with loose gravel covering the ground. It is one of the driest places on Earth and has not seen rain for nearly 2 million years.

Lake Fryxell Camp

Lake Fryxell is a frozen lake 4.5 kilometres (2.8 mi) long, between Canada Glacier and Commonwealth Glaciers at the lower end of Taylor Valley in Victoria Land, Antarctica. It was mapped in the early 1900s and named during Operation Deep Freeze in the 1950s. There are several forms of algae living in the waters and a weather station located at the lake.

Polar desert Regions of Earth under an ice cap with very low rainfall and no vegetation; type EF under the Köppen classification

Ice deserts are the regions of Earth that fall under an ice cap climate. Despite rainfall totals low enough to normally classify as a desert, polar deserts are distinguished from true deserts by low annual temperatures and evapotranspiration. Most polar deserts are covered in ice sheets, ice fields, or ice caps.

Subglacial lake Lake under a glacier

A subglacial lake is a lake that is found under a glacier, typically beneath an ice cap or ice sheet. Subglacial lakes form at the boundary between ice and the underlying bedrock, where gravitational pressure decreases the pressure melting point of ice. Over time, the overlying ice gradually melts at a rate of a few millimeters per year. Meltwater flows from regions of high to low hydraulic pressure under the ice and pools, creating a body of liquid water that can be isolated from the external environment for millions of years.

Whillans Ice Stream is a glaciological feature of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, formerly known as Ice Stream B, renamed in 2001 in honor of Ohio State University glaciologist Ian Whillans.

John Charles Priscu

John C. Priscu, is a Romanian-American scientist who is the current Professor of Ecology in the Department of Land Resources and Environmental Sciences at Montana State University. He is a principal investigator in the McMurdo Dry Valleys Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) project.

Lake Bonney (Antarctica)

Lake Bonney is a saline lake with permanent ice cover at the western end of Taylor Valley in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Victoria Land, Antarctica.

Russell Glacier (Greenland)

Russell Glacier is a glacier in the Qeqqata municipality in central-western Greenland. It flows from the Greenland ice sheet in the western direction. The front of the glacier is located 25 km (16 mi) east of Kangerlussuaq. It is active, advancing 25 m (82 ft) every year, and, due to easy access from Kangerlussuaq, it remains a popular place for tourists to visit.

Blood Falls Red-colored seep of saltwater flowing from Taylor Glacier in Antarctica

Blood Falls is an outflow of an iron oxide-tainted plume of saltwater, flowing from the tongue of Taylor Glacier onto the ice-covered surface of West Lake Bonney in the Taylor Valley of the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Victoria Land, East Antarctica.

There are hundreds of antarctic lakes, in Antarctica. In 2018 researchers at the Alfred Wegener Institute's Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research published a study they claimed cast doubt on the earlier estimate that there were almost 400 subglacial antarctic lakes. Antarctica also has some relatively small regions that are clear of ice and snow, and there are some surface lakes in these regions. They called for on the ground seismic studies, or drilling, to determine a more reliable number.

Lake Whillans

Lake Whillans is a subglacial lake in Antarctica. The lake is located under the Whillans Ice Stream at the southeastern edge of the Ross Ice Shelf in the west of the continent. The lake surface is 800 m (2,600 ft) beneath the surface of the ice and the lake covers an estimated area of 60 km2 (20 sq mi). Lake depths measured thus far have been around 2 metres. Its temperature is −0.49 °C, below 0 °C because of the high pressure.

Helen Amanda Fricker is a glaciologist and professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego where she is a director of the Scripps Polar Center. She won the 2010 Martha T. Muse Prize for Science and Policy in Antarctica.

Terry Wilson (scientist) International leader in the study of present-day tectonics in Antarctica

Terry Jean Wilson is an international leader in the study of present-day tectonics in Antarctica. She has led large, international efforts, such as Polar Earth Observing Network (POLENET), to investigate the interactions between the earth's crust and the cryosphere in Antarctica.

Cristina Takacs-Vesbach American microbial ecologist

Cristina Takacs-Vesbach is an American microbial ecologist conducting research on the productivity, diversity, and function of microbial communities living at the two extremes of temperature found on Earth-Antarctica's McMurdo Dry Valleys and Yellowstone National Park's thermal springs.

Jill Mikucki American microbiologist, educator and Antarctic researcher

Jill Ann Mikucki is an American microbiologist, educator and Antarctic researcher, best known for her work at Blood Falls demonstrating that microbes can grow below ice in the absence of sunlight. She is a leader of international teams studying study ecosystems under the ice.

Alison Murray (scientist) American biochemist and Antarctic researcher

Alison Murray is an American microbial ecologist and Antarctic researcher, best known for studying the diversity, ecology and biogeography of Antarctic marine plankton dynamics of the plankton over the annual cycle; and her work demonstrating the existence of microbial life within an ice-sealed Antarctic lake. She studies how microorganisms persist and function in extremely cold and harsh environments, including those that lack oxygen and biological sources of energy.

Mars habitability analogue environments on Earth are environments that share potentially relevant astrobiological conditions with Mars. These include sites that are analogues of potential subsurface habitats, and deep subsurface habitats.

Martin J. Siegert is a British glaciologist, a professor at Imperial College London, and co-director of the Grantham Institute - Climate Change and Environment.

Mercer Lake (Antarctica)

Mercer Subglacial Lake is a subglacial lake in Antarctica covered by a sheet of ice 1,067 m (3,501 ft) thick; the water below is hydraulically active, with water replacement times on the order of a decade from the Ross Sea.


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  2. "Catching Up With an Alumna: Trista Vick-Majors". Graduate School, Montana State University. Retrieved 2016-06-19.
  3. Vick-Majors, Trista J.; Priscu, John C.; Amaral-Zettler, Linda A. (2014-04-01). "Modular community structure suggests metabolic plasticity during the transition to polar night in ice-covered Antarctic lakes". The ISME Journal. 8 (4): 778–789. doi:10.1038/ismej.2013.190. ISSN   1751-7370. PMC   3960534 . PMID   24152712.
  4. Vick, Trista J.; Priscu, John C. (2012-12-18). "Bacterioplankton productivity in lakes of the Taylor Valley, Antarctica, during the polar night transition". Aquatic Microbial Ecology. 68 (1): 77–90. doi: 10.3354/ame01604 .
  5. 1 2 Christner, Brent C.; Priscu, John C.; Achberger, Amanda M.; Barbante, Carlo; Carter, Sasha P.; Christianson, Knut; Michaud, Alexander B.; Mikucki, Jill A.; Mitchell, Andrew C. (2014). "A microbial ecosystem beneath the West Antarctic ice sheet". Nature. 512 (7514): 310–313. Bibcode:2014Natur.512..310.. doi:10.1038/nature13667. PMID   25143114. S2CID   4470332.
  6. Vick-Majors, Trista J.; Achberger, Amanda; Santibáñez, Pamela; Dore, John E.; Hodson, Timothy; Michaud, Alexander B.; Christner, Brent C.; Mikucki, Jill; Skidmore, Mark L. (2016-03-01). "Biogeochemistry and microbial diversity in the marine cavity beneath the McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica". Limnology and Oceanography. 61 (2): 572–586. Bibcode:2016LimOc..61..572V. doi: 10.1002/lno.10234 . ISSN   1939-5590.
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  24. Vick, T. J.; Dodsworth, J. A.; Costa, K. C.; Shock, E. L.; Hedlund, B. P. (2010-03-01). "Microbiology and geochemistry of Little Hot Creek, a hot spring environment in the Long Valley Caldera". Geobiology. 8 (2): 140–154. doi:10.1111/j.1472-4669.2009.00228.x. ISSN   1472-4669. PMID   20002204. S2CID   9610725.
  25. Vick-Majors, Trista J.; Priscu, John C.; Amaral-Zettler, Linda A. (2014-04-01). "Modular community structure suggests metabolic plasticity during the transition to polar night in ice-covered Antarctic lakes". The ISME Journal. 8 (4): 778–789. doi:10.1038/ismej.2013.190. ISSN   1751-7362. PMC   3960534 . PMID   24152712.