National Laboratory for High Performance Computing contributes to the study of Antarctic biodiversity

National Laboratory for High Performance Computing contributes to the study of Antarctic biodiversity

From the largest and most emblematic species such as whales and dolphins, to the smallest such as bacteria. The NLHPC supercomputer is moving towards exploring questions about conservation and the effects of climate change in Antarctica, through a collaboration between the BASE Millennium Institute and the Center for Mathematical Modeling (CMM) of the University of Chile.

It is the equivalent of hundreds of notebooks that allow working with large or complex datasets, and is contributing to the study of biodiversity in southern territories such as Punta Arenas, Puerto Williams and even Antarctica. It is the National Laboratory for High Performance Computing, known as NLHPC, which, through a collaboration with the Instituto Milenio Biodiversidad de Ecosistemas Antárticos y Subantárticos, also known as Instituto Milenio BASE, we process biodiversity data in a conservation effort that seeks to describe and predict the dynamic distribution of species in a context of climate crisis.

Dr. Guillaume Schwob, French postdoctoral researcher at the BASE Millennium Institute, studies Microbial Ecology and points out that for the study of microorganisms the NLHPC is used to define which bacterial species live on the white continent: “When we work with microorganisms, we recover from the environment (which can be abiotic such as soil, lake sediment, sea water, or biotic such as effects of the presence of animals, plants or lichens), small fragments of DNA. These fragments are sequences of four letters and have an approximate size of about 400. This is very important because the order of the letters allows us to define which are the microbial species living in Antarctica”, he says.

Dr. Guillaume Schwob, postdoctoral researcher at the Millennium Institute BASE. Photo: I. Millennium BASE / N. Politis

D. in Microbial Ecology stresses that processing large volume data requires the use of supercomputers, such as the NLHPC: “For example, in our last study we had 47 million sequences that were analyzed. And if we had wanted to write these sequences on sheets of paper it would have been the equivalent of 2 million pages stretching from the city of Punta Arenas to the Chilean base Julio Escudero on King George Island in Antarctica, an extension of about 1,200 kilometers,” he stresses.

Currently, the use of biodiversity data makes it possible to advance towards the exploration of questions about conservation and the effects of climate change in Antarctica, through the description of species, knowing how they reach isolated, little explored places and what are the environmental conditions that allow them to remain in those places, as well as to predict how the distribution of these species will change in the future, in response to climate change… Will the species be able to adapt?

The National Laboratory for High Performance Computing (NLHPC) is the most powerful supercomputer in Chile and one of the most powerful in South America. It specializes in high-performance computing, in 2011 began operating at the Center for Mathematical Modeling (CMM) of the University of Chile and currently constitutes the largest scientific network in the country sharing an infrastructure.

The BASE Millennium Institute, a program of the National Agency for Research and Development (ANID), belonging to the Ministry of Science, Technology, Knowledge and Innovation of Chile, seeks to generate frontier scientific knowledge and train young researchers on the biodiversity of Antarctic and sub-Antarctic ecosystems, in order to understand, evaluate and predict the effects of climate change on biota. This, with the aim of proposing conservation and governance policies for Antarctica, the Southern Ocean and sub-Antarctic regions, as well as raising awareness and communicating to a broad public about the threats facing these ecosystems.

By Nadia Politis, journalist of the BASE Millennium Institute.

Posted on Apr 1, 2024 in News