Jody Deming Göteborgs Universitet

A visiting professor with a feeling for ice

Her research examines how bacteria and other microorganisms manage to survive in the cold environment of the Arctic.
“They’ve done fantastic things over the course of evolution,” says Jody Deming, who is currently a visiting professor at the Department of Marine Sciences.

She is a committed and incredibly knowledgeable teacher who lectures about the microbial ecosystem in sea ice. She shares her knowledge, involves her students, shows images, throws out questions and makes plenty of jokes. And the response is clear to see when Professor Jody Deming visits the University of Gothenburg to teach research students on a week-long course and to play a leading role in a marine symposium.

“Most of the students on the course here focus on algae that live in the ice, and these algae are dependent on light for photosynthesis. I want to provide the perspective that important processes are going on in the Arctic, even during the winter. Sunlight isn’t needed in order to get microorganisms to do essential jobs. I want to give students a winter bacterial perspective alongside their algae-focused summer perspective,” she laughs.

Professor Deming’s interest in the life in Arctic ice began when NASA published research findings in 1997 announcing that Jupiter’s ice-covered moon Europa had an ocean hidden beneath the ice.

“There was speculation about whether there was life in the ice on Europa’s moon, and I realised that I wanted to study the coldest ice in the Arctic to investigate the conditions for life there.”

Professor Deming had previously researched the seas around the Arctic, but she now shifted her focus and headed off on winter expeditions to study the coldest ice and the limits of life there.

“I was impressed at how microorganisms affect the liquid that surrounds them so that they don’t freeze to death. You could call this a fluid home that allows them to survive in ice.”

Today, polar research is her passion. However, she had originally planned to become a concert pianist and to study music at college.

“But I loved chemistry at high school, and I gradually changed track. I had a mentor who took me took me by the hand and led me towards oceanography. And so I started studying the ice-free ocean beyond the Arctic. That was my research field for my first ten years as a researcher, but then I discovered the Arctic and was hooked.”

The Arctic is where climate change is currently happening at the fastest rate. And one of the least certain factors in the climate models is cloud and its significance when it comes to ice and global warming.

“We’re losing ice in the Arctic. Clouds can either warm or cool, depending on various circumstances. I have an idea that my tiny microbes, which live in the ice, might contribute towards particles that form clouds. Through my research, I hope I can help us to predict what will happen next with the climate.”