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Scientist Interview - Dale Andersen

Scientist Interview - Dale Andersen

Dale Andersen

As the American leader of a joint US/Soviet expedition to Antarctica, biologist Dale Andersen spent six months with a multinational, multicultural crew in this remote, hostile environment, carrying out research relevant to the search for life on Mars. “In addition to the rigors of the local environment,” says Andersen, “we had to address the challenges of our differing cultures and languages.”

Andersen's research takes him to such diverse environments as Chile’s Atacama Desert, the ancient permafrost of Siberia, the world's northernmost lakes and springs in the Canadian High Arctic, and the depths of the polar oceans. “My work in the polar regions has involved a lot of underwater time in remote areas,” says Andersen, “and over the years I have made close to a thousand dives beneath the thick ice of lakes and oceans.” Andersen’s team has learned that beneath the thick ice-cover of the lakes reside robust microbial communities, similar in many ways to life on Earth billions of years ago. “To our surprise,” he recounts, “we found microbial communities living beneath ice more than twenty feet thick. Initially, we did not think enough light would penetrate the ice cover to support photosynthetic life forms."

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