Ecosystem Engineers on Ice

Cryoconite holes in the world’s glaciers harbor miniature environments that could vanish as the slabs melt away.

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Joseph Cook took to the ice to learn about the polar ice caps of Mars, but he found something almost as otherworldly on Earth. For his graduate research in glaciology, Cook’s plan was to study depressions on glaciers as a way to learn more about mysterious Swiss-cheese pits in Martian ice. But, he says, once he began exploring the holes in 2009, “I was hooked.” It’s easy to understand Cook’s fascination. Each hole is its own tiny world, an ecosystem unto itself tha...
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