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A flow cytometric method to measure prokaryotic records in ice cores: an example from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide drilling site



Microorganisms were the earliest inhabitants on our planet that occupy nearly every environment, and play a major role in biogeochemical cycles. Despite their global importance, there remains a paucity of data on microbial responses to long-term environmental and climatic changes. Microorganisms are known to be immured in glacial ice, but no high-resolution temporal records of their density exist, owing in large part to the lack of appropriate clean methodology that allows for rapid analysis of samples over depth. We describe a clean and time efficient method that can produce a high-temporal resolution record of prokaryotic density archived in ice cores. The method combines acquisition of discrete samples using a continuous ice-core melting system coupled with flow cytometry (FCM) of DNA-stained samples. Specifically, we evaluate the performance of the FCM measurement technique in terms of specificity, precision, accuracy and minimum detection limits. Examples from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide ice core are included to show the efficacy of the method.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives licence (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is unaltered and is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use or in order to create a derivative work.

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Correspondence: Pamela A. Santibáñez <>


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