Joseph CookThe frozen rainforest

Published in 2016icon-clockTime to read: 0min 55s

Glacial microbiologist Joseph Cook says the top few metres of the Arctic’s ice are like a “frozen rainforest”. His research is a journey of discovery that reveals how ice microorganisms on the Greenland ice sheet shape our world.


The Earth’s ice is home to trillions of microorganisms. Glacial microbiologist Joseph Cook, through his Ice Alive mission, is shedding light on this little-known ecosystem and its effect on the Earth’s climate, nutrient and carbon cycles.

It’s a captivating landscape, serene, with giant rivers that carve their way through the ice, vivid neon blues, pinks, greens – it’s not the empty, white wasteland people imagine.

Cook has already undertaken five field sessions in the Arctic. The next trip, funded by his Rolex Award, will take place in 2017 when his team will further explore the climatic influences of the ice microbes and gather evidence on how they might inform our human activities. His discoveries have the potential to “affect our own future”, he says.

The Arctic has exerted an irresistible allure for Cook since he first set eyes on the Greenland ice sheet, and he will share this passion and his findings through a series of films, talks, feature articles and exhibitions. Some of his Rolex funds will be used to make a documentary, Ice Alive, the sequel to his prize-winning short film, Life on Earth’s Cold Shoulder.

  • Over a million billion trillion

    Microorganisms estimated to be living in the top 2 metres of the Earth’s ice

  • 0.1 - 1.0

    Temperature in Celsius at which microorganisms in the ice are highly active

Published in 2020

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Rolex Awards for Enterprise

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