Polar and remote area research is supported not only by permanent stations but also by a series of observatories, that is, by permanent or semi-permanent infrastructures designed to allow for long-term, often automated, measurements.
Eight observatories report to the Institute of Polar Sciences, in various capacities: 6 in polar regions, of which 4 in the Arctic (Climate Change Tower, Gruvedabet and 2 Mooring: Kongfjorden and Storfjorden) and 2 in Antarctica (BSRN Station and Mooring del Ross Sea), and 2 in non-polar regions, of which 1 in the high altitude region (Col Margherita) and 1 in the Adriatic Sea (Mooring Southern Adriatic, MSA). 

Most of the scientific activity of the researchers of the Institute of Polar Sciences makes use of three permanent scientific bases located in the polar areas: the Dirigible Italia Station (SDI) located at the Svalbard Archipelago, in the Arctic and the Mario Zucchelli (MZS) and Concordia stations in Antarctica, respectively in the Terranova Bay and at Dome C, on the Antarctic Plateau.
The Dirigible Italia Station is managed by the CNR through ISP. The Mario Zucchelli Station is managed by ENEA for PNRA, while the Concordia base, opened on the basis of a bilateral Italian-French agreement between PNRA (Italy) and IPEV (France), is managed jointly between ENEA and IPEV.

Brief description
The experimental activities carried out at the MAMB laboratory in Messina are aimed at the ecological study of microorganisms by applying specific methods for the determination of the abundance and biomass of prokaryotes (Bacteria and Archaea) and phytoplankton, as well as for the morphometric and morphological description at the cellular level. The evaluation of these phenotypic characteristics provides a different approach to the analysis of the ecosystem structure and allows to evaluate the heterogeneity of natural populations. Variations in cell size, shape and morphology are considered sensitive indicators of trophic and climatic changes in ecosystems. The laboratory also carries out analyzes for the quantification of viable (Live / Dead) and respiring (CTC +) cells using specific microbial biomarkers. The laboratory activities are also in support of the EcoBiM and BiogeM Laboratories.

Matrices of interest
The matrices analyzed are mostly attributable to the hydrosphere (marine, river and lake waters, brines), soil, sediments, biofilm, cryosphere (permafrost, snow, sea and continental ice, intrapermafrost brines) and aquatic organisms.

Applied experimental approaches

- determination of biomass of prokaryotes by counting, and morphometric and morphological analysis of cells, using selective filters for DAPI (4 ', 6-diamidine-2-phenylindole);
- determination of cells with primary fluorescence using specific selective filters;
- quantification of cells endowed with respiratory activity (5-Cyano-2,3-ditolyl-tetrazolium chloride-CTC), using selective filters for rhodamine;
- quantification of viable cells with intact membranes (Live / Dead) using selective filters for fluorescein and rhodamine;
- identification of target bacterial cells by immunofluorescence techniques (fluoresceinated antibodies);
- estimation of the relative abundance of microbial phylogenetic groups using CARD-FISH (catalyzed reporter deposition-fluorescence in situ hybridization).

- Zeiss AXIOPLAN 2 Imaging epifluorescence microscope equipped with AXIOCAMHR (Zeiss) digital video camera and AXIOVISION 3.1 software. Technical features: high pressure mercury vapor lamp (100 W); 100XPlan-Neofluar immersion objective; 10 X eyepieces, one of which has a squared reticle; interchangeable and appropriate optical filter sets for:

DAPI: G365 excitation, FT395 color divider and LP420 barrier filter;
Primary fluorescence: BP450-490 / FT510 / LP515;
Rhodamine: BP546 / 12; FT580; LP590;
Fluorescein: BP450-490; FT510; LP520.
For details: Sig. Giovanna Maimone – giovanna.maimone AT

Brief description
The research activities carried out in the HydroChem laboratory in Messina are aimed at studying the marine (coastal and pelagic) and lake water bodies, providing technical-scientific support to the study of biogeochemical cycles and ecological processes also in relation to marine acidification, as well as studies of microbial biomass conducted in the MAMB Laboratory. In particular, analyses of oxygen, salinity, pH, nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and particulate organic carbon are performed. As part of the environmental monitoring activity, several prototype nutrient analyzers were tested both on fixed platform and on boat, at pristine or anthropogenically polluted sites.

Matrices of interest
The analyzed matrices are mostly attributable to the hydrosphere (marine, river and lake waters, brines).

The laboratory is equipped with basic instrumentation for environmental chemistry [spectrophotometer, spectrofluorimeter, luminometer, digital burette for oxygen titration, centrifuge, salinometer, automatic nutrient analyzers (ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and orthophosphates), extraction hoods, vacuum pumps, filtration septa, magnetic shaker, pHmeter].
For details: Dr. Filippo Azzaro – filippo.azzaro AT

Short description
The experimental activities carried out at the BioSoundEcology Lab in Messina are focused on the analysis of biological underwater acoustic sources and the study of the ecological dynamics of marine vertebrates and invertebrates in polar habitats. In addition, the impacts of anthropogenic acoustic sources on the ecology, physiology and behaviour of marine organisms are assessed. In particular, through the study of the sounds generated by animals, the biological and ecological aspects are investigated. The analysis of the noise from human activities provides useful elements for understanding the effects on animals through the study of their behavioural and physiological responses.

Matrices of interest
The activities are mostly ascribable to marine habitats.

Study techniques
At the BioSoundEcology Lab, acoustic data acquisition in field/controlled environment and assessment of animal responses to environmental noise disturbance are carried out, in particular:
- Acoustic data analysis;
- Estimation of underwater noise and environmental acoustic components;
- Evaluation of ecological dynamics through the analysis of the vocalizations of marine animals;
-Analysis of the biochemical, physiological and behavioural responses of animals exposed to acoustic disturbance;
- Study of the acoustic ecology of marine mammals.

The Lab is equipped with instrumentation for passive acoustic monitoring in the field (hydrophones and autonomous acoustic data acquisition systems) and for studies of the effects of noise on marine organisms in controlled environment (cameras, amplifier, acoustic transducer, software for acoustic and behavioral analysis).
For details: Dr. Francesco Filiciotto – francesco.filiciotto AT

Short description
The research activities carried out in the BiogeM laboratory at the Messina headquarters are aimed at studying the marine and terrestrial biological processes that modulate and influence the chemical characteristics of the polar environment and the related cycles of matter and energy, also in relation to climate change.
Particular attention is paid to the evaluation of the role of microorganisms in the global carbon cycle and in the biogeochemical cycles of nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus) of marine and lacustrine environments, through the study of both productive and degradative processes.
Among these, the activities involved in the decomposition of organic polymers, through microbial enzymatic activities, and the mineralization processes through microbial respiration.
The biogeochemical processes mediated by the microbial component are also being studied in the framework of the cryosphere, in order to understand the ecological significance of microbes in the permafrost, and their ability to maintain an active metabolism in extreme living conditions.
Together with the microbial processes linked to the biological pump and organic matter decomposition, a series of indirect biogeochemical parameters related to phytoplankton and bacterial biomass (Chlorophyll, ATP, lipopolysaccharides-LPS) are also determined.

Matrices of interest
The analyzed matrices are mostly ascribable to the hydrosphere (marine, river and lake waters, brines), soil, sediments, biofilm, cryosphere (permafrost, snow, sea and continental ice, intrapermafrost brines) and aquatic organisms.

Study techniques
At the BiogeM laboratory, measurements are carried out to determine the following parameters:
- Primary phytoplankton production;
- Microbial respiratory activity (consumed O2; produced CO2) (by ETS assay);
- Microbial enzymatic activities (leucin aminopeptidase, beta-glucosidase and alkaline phosphatase) (through fluorogenic substrates);
- Heterotrophic bacterial production;
- Content of total and size-fractionated (pico-, nano- and micro-phytoplanktonic) chlorophyll-a, pheopigments;
- microbial ATP in pico-, nano and microplankton fractions;
- Quantitative analysis of lipopolysaccharides (LPS) by the LAL chromogenic test.

Spectrofluorimeter, Luminometer, Fluorometer, Spectrophotometer equipped with 96-well plate fluorescence reader, incubator, autoclave, balance, homogenizer, filtration systems, refrigerated centrifuge.
For information: Dr. Gabriella Caruso – gabriella.caruso AT

Brief description
Experimental activities carried out at the EcoBiM LAB in Messina are addressed to the ecology and biotechnology of microorganisms, particularly prokaryotes, inhabiting both marine and continental polar habitats. The diversity of microorganisms, their response to environmental stress conditions (deriving from natural or anthropogenic forcing, such as climate change and chemical contamination), the astrobiological implications of life in extreme environments, and their evolution and adaptation in polar environments are among the ecological aspects investigated. EcoBiM researchers are also interested in the evaluation of the metabolic capabilities and biotechnological potentialities of cold-adapted microorganisms, by searching for biomolecules exploitable in industrial applications and bacteria able to degrade organic pollutants at low temperatures.

Matrices of interest
The analyzed matrices are mostly attributable to the hydrosphere (marine, river and lake waters, brines) and cryosphere (permafrost, snow, sea-ice and continental ice, intrapermafrost brines), but soils and sediments are also considered. The study of the interactions between microorganisms and biotic (for example, pelagic and benthic organisms) and abiotic (such as microbial communities colonizing polymeric materials, indicated with the term plastisphere) is of particular interest.

Applied experimental approaches
For the microbiological characterization of extreme environments, similarly to the analytical procedures commonly applied for the study of temperate areas, we use both culture-dependent and -independent (i.e. biomolecular and biochemical) approaches, including:
 - isolation and maintenance in pure culture of bacterial strains;
 - phenotypic (physiological, biochemical and morphological characteristics) and genotypic (analysis of the 16S rRNA sequences and search for functional genes) characterization of cultivable bacteria;
 - screening of bacteria for the production for useful biomolecules (including antibiotics, exopolysaccharides, biosurfactants);
 - evaluation of the metabolic capacities of the microbial communities through miniaturized assays;
 - characterization of the microbial communities by the hybridization in situ with oligonucleotide probes (CARD-FISH);
 - extraction of environmental DNA and RNA for metagenomics and metatrascriptomics studies;
 - preparation of microcosms enriched with organic and inorganic contaminants, and degradation tests.

The EcoBiM LAB is equipped with basic instrumentation for environmental and applied microbiology (laminar flow cabinet, autoclave, incubators and thermostated baths, centrifuges, filtration systems, sonicators, spectrophotometers, fluorometers) and molecular biology equipment (thermocycler and equipment for electrophoresis).
For details: Dr. Angelina Lo Giudice - angelina.logiudice AT

High Performance Liquid Chromatograph Agilent 1100 Series HPLC Systems

Brief description
The HPLC-MS/MS system allows to quantitatively determine polar organic compounds in several environmental and vegetable matrices and biota samples. It is commonly used to investigate specific markers of sources or environmental processes in samples collected in polar regions. It is used to determine levoglucosan, key tracer of biomass burning, in ice core samples to provide historical profiles of fire regimes in paleoclimatic studies. Several water soluble organic compounds (free and combined amino acids, phenolic compounds) are determined using HPLC-MS/MS in aerosol samples to define chemical composition of atmosphere in urban and polar samples. Polar pesticide or toxins are commonly determined with HPLC-MS/MS in fresh water, sea water, biota or vegetable samples.

High Performance Liquid Chromatograph Agilent 1100 Series HPLC Systems (Waldbronn, Germany) with a binary pump, vacuum degasser, autosampler and thermostated column compartment coupled with an API 4000 Triple Quadrupole Mass Spectrometer (Applied Biosystem/MSD SCIEX, Concord, Ontario, Canada) using a TurboV source.
Contact person: Dr. Roberta Zangrando - roberta.zangrando AT - CNR-ISP Venice Headquarters

Matrix and type of measurement
Analysis of discrete samples of several matrices: ice, snow, atmospheric aerosol, lacustrine water, fresh water, sea water, sediment, vegetable and biota samples. Analysis of polar organic compounds such as for example anhydrosugars, amino acids, phenolic compounds, organic acids.

Agilent 1100 series HPLC system coupled with API 4000, High Performance Liquid Chromatograph coupled with tandem mass spectrometer (HPLC-MS/MS). (IMAGE)



Liquid chromatograph UHPLC mod. Dionex Ultimate 3000 Dual Pump RS
Brief description
This instrument is the key system to perform semicontinuous analysis of organic compounds in ice core samples.

Liquid chromatograph UHPLC mod. Dionex Ultimate 3000 Dual Pump RS (Thermo ScientificTM) with vacuum degasser, column thermostat.
Contact person: Dr. Elena Barbaro - elena.barbaro AT - CNR-ISP Venice Headquarters

Matrix and type of measurement
Semicontinuos analysis of ice cores. This system is coupled with continuous flow analysis (CFA).

Dionex Ultimate 3000 Dual Pump RS Thermo Scientific, Liquid chromatograph UHPLC Dual Pump (IMAGE)



Mercur Plus - Analytik Jena AG, cold vapor atomic fluorescence spectroscopy (CV-AFS).
Brief description
Cold vapor atomic fluorescence spectroscopy (CV-AFS) is an analytical technique used for the quantification of mercury at trace/ultra-trace levels. This technique is mainly used on “clean” aqueous matrices (eg ice, snow, and water) from remote and uncontaminated areas.
The sensitivity of the instrument is fully harnessed by using official methods such as USEPA1631 version E or UNI-EN 15853: 2010. The Hg present in the matrix is oxidized to Hg2+ with BrCl solution and then reduced to elemental mercury(Hg0) con SnCl2. The Hg0 is stripped from the aqueous matrix using an inert carrier gas (argon) and successively transported to gold traps for the pre-concentration by amalgam formation. Following thermal desorption at T between 450-500 °C, the Hg0 is desorbed from the gold traps and is transported into a quartz cell.
Light from a mercury vapor lamp passes through the quartz cell that contains the sample mercury in a flow of argon carrier gas and excites all the mercury atoms which then emit a characteristic fluorescence radiation at 253.7 nm. The amount of light emitted by the mercury atoms in the sample is proportional to the amount of mercury passing through the quartz cell. The CV-AFS of the CNR-ISP is located inside a dedicated clean room.

Mercur Plus - Analytik Jena AG, cold vapor atomic fluorescence spectroscopy (CV-AFS).
Contact person: Dr. Massimiliano Vardè - massimiliano.varde AT - CNR-ISP Venice Headquarters

Matrix and type of measurement
Aqueous matrices: atmospheric deposition, snow, ice, drinking water, mineral water, natural water, seawater. Mercury, as total mercury, or as dissolved, filtered and unfiltered after sample pre-treatment.

Mercur Plus - Analytik Jena AG, cold vapor atomic fluorescence spectroscopy (CV-AFS). (IMAGE)



Gas chromatograph coupled with mass spectrometer (GC-MS)

Brief description
The GC-MS system allows the quantification of volatile apolar compounds in environmental matrices. In the environmental field GC-MS finds main application in the determination of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as PCBs, PBDEs, PAHs, pesticides, in environmental matrices both in urban and remote areas such as polar areas. As well as it used in the determination of personal care products such as fragrances that have been observed not only in urban areas but also in Antarctica.
In the ISP-CNR there are 3 GC-MS systems. Among these, the system equipped with a cryogenic trap allows the preconcentration of volatile compounds (allowing the quantification of volatile compounds difficult to analyze in GC even at very low levels). There is also a GC-MS system equipped with a pyrolyser that allows the analysis of non-volatile materials such as plastic materials.


• GC-MS 7890A-5975C (Agilent) /
• GC-MS GC7890A+MS5975C (Agilent) with cryogenic trap (MARKES Int)
• GC-MS GC6890+MS5973 (Agilent) with Pyrolysis system Pyroprobe 5000 Series
Contact person: Dr. Elena Argiriadis - elena.argiriadis AT - CNR-ISP Venice Headquarters

Matrix and type of measurement
Analysis of discrete samples of several matrices: ice, snow, atmospheric aerosol, lacustrine water, fresh water, sea water, sediment, vegetable and biota samples. Compounds analyzed: Apolar volatile compounds such as PCBs, PBDEs, PAHs, pesticids, fragrances, sterols.

GC-MS 7890A-5975C Agilent (IMAGE)

Brief description
Microplastics are considered emerging pollutants and they are present in different environmental compartments (e.g. seawater, soil, atmosphere, etc.). In 2019 the European Chemical Agency has clearly defined microplastics and their sizes: “a material composed of solid polymer-containing particles, to which additives or other substances may have been added, with particle dimensions ranging from 1 nm to 5 mm and with fiber lengths ranging from 3 nm to 15 mm and length to diameter ratio of >3. ECHA has also firmly stated the need of polymer identification when analyzing microplastics. Microplastics can be primary and secondary, according to their sources; sources of primary microplastics are discharges from household washing machines, road dust, tire wear and cosmetics. Particles and fibers of plastics can be vector of other pollutants and pathogens. An accurate quantification and characterization of microplastics allow evaluating the environmental risk assessment and designing future actions of environmental management and recovery.

Micro-FTIR Nicolet™ iN™10 Infrared Microscope Thermo Scientific, it couples optic microscopy with IR spectroscopy. Two different detectors are present: DTG (Deuturate Triglycine sulfate) detector enables room temperature analysis, and MCT (Mercury Cadmium Telluride ) detector works with liquid nitrogen and allows the analysis of samples down to 10 µm. Samples can be analyzed on transmittance mode, reflectance mode and ATR mode.

Matrix and type of measurement
Non-destructive analysis of microplastics in different environmental samples (seawater, sediments, soil, permafrost, aerosol, snow, raw and treated water, discharges from household washing machines, etc.) and in different biota (crustaceans, mollusks, fish, etc.). Micro-FTIR allows quantification and simultaneous polymer identification of plastic particles and fibers and of additives, plasticizers. and other synthetic and natural fibers. It can be employed for analysis of microplastics, but also for analysis of microfossils, artistic handiworks, etc.
Contact person: Dr. Fabiana Corami - fabiana.corami AT - CNR-ISP Venice headquarters

Mass Spectroscopy Laboratory (SpeM)

Brief description

In the SpeM laboratory, at the Venice headquarters, the researchers carry out the chemical (trace elements) and isotopic (δD, δ13C, δ15N, δ18O) characterization of natural matrices and the determination of the total carbon and nitrogen content (in soils and sediments).

Trace elements are all those elements in the periodic table present in natural matrices with concentrations of less than 1 ppm (parts per million). The quantification of these elements allows, in addition to the chemical characterization of the samples examined, an evaluation of any contamination problems, including those arising from human activities. This allows us to study the exchanges that may take place between different compartments of the different ecosystems, and the origin of the elements, as well as allowing us to reconstruct temporal variations related to current and past climate changes.
Per Isotopes are atoms belonging to the same chemical element, therefore with the same atomic number but which differ by mass number (that is, they differ by the number of neutrons contained within the nucleus). Isotopes are therefore chemically equal but different from a physical point of view. They differ in nuclear stability and instability meaning that some can be radioactive. Among the most studied stable isotopes are oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen. The study of stable isotope relative abundances between the various isotopes of an element, gives a measure of the ratio of one of the heavier isotopes to the lighter isotope (the most abundant in nature) of a given element. This ratio in nature is not constant but may vary as a result of chemical, physical and biological processes that can lead to an impoverishment or an enrichment of one isotope compared to the other in the various phases of a natural system: we speak of this as isotopic fractionation. Stable isotopes have fundamental applications for environmental and paleoenvironmental studies. For example, the measurement of δ18O in snow/ice cores allows a reconstruction of the temperature trends in the past.


Element XR	         DeltaV Advantage           Elemental Analyzer Flash2000HT

                            Element XR                                                                      DeltaV Advantage                                                                     Elemental Analyzer Flash2000HT

ICP-SFMS Element XR Thermo Scientific equipped with various sample introduction systems (Scott-type spray-chamber in PFA; cyclonic spray-chamber in glass or PFA, cooled by a Peltier system; APEX-ESI system equipped with heated cyclonic spray-chamber (both in glass and in PFA) and a cooling system for the reduction of interferences from oxides and doubly charged ions, resistant to hydrofluoric acid; ARIDUS-CETAC system equipped with heated spray-chamber in PFA and a heated membrane, for the reduction of oxides and doubly charged ions). The instrument is also equipped with an auto-sampler protected by a laminar flow hood that keeps the samples clean during the analysis sessions.
Contact person: Dr. Giulio Cozzi - giulio.cozzi AT - CNR-ISP Venice headquarters

IRMS DeltaV Advantage Thermo Scientificequipped with: Gas-Bench (with autosampler), Elemental Analyzer Flash HT with double furnace, two autosamplers for solid samples and one autosampler for liquid samples and ConFloIV, and Gas chromatograph (GC Trace with auto-sampler).
Contact person: Dr. Clara Turetta - clara.turetta AT - CNR-ISP Venice headquarters

EA Elemental Analyzer Flash2000HT Thermo Scientific with double furnace, two autosamplers for solid samples and one autosampler for liquid samples.
Contact person: Dr. Clara Turetta - clara.turetta AT - CNR-ISP Venice headquarters

Matrix and type of measurement
ICP-SFMS: snow/ice, sea water, surface and groundwater, interstitial water. Determination of trace elements (at ppb to ppq level).

IRMS - Gas-Bench: water (snow/ice, sea water, surface and groundwater, interstitial water), carbonates (foraminifera, carbonates s.s.). δD, δ13C, δ18O measurements,
IRMS - EA: soils, sediments, biota. δ13C, δ15N measurements.

EA: soils, sediments, biota. Determination of total nitrogen (TN), total carbon (TC) and organic carbon (OC).

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