Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Can you guess what this is? What if I told you there's a place where the creatures are made of glass? Or that there are life-forms that are invisible to us, but astronauts see them all the time? These invisible glass creatures aren't aliens on a faraway exoplanet. They're diatoms: photosynthetic, single-celled algae responsible for producing oxygen and helping seed clouds on a planetary scale and with intricately sculpted, geometric exoskeletons made of -- yeah, glass. You can see them in swirls of ocean-surface colors from space. And when they die, their glass houses sink to the depths of the oceans, taking carbon out of the air and with them to the grave, accounting for a significant amount of carbon sequestration in the oceans. We live on an alien planet. There is so much weird life here on Earth to study, and so much of it lives at the edges of our world, of our sight and of our understanding. One of those edges is Antarctica. Typically, when we think about Antarctica, we think of a place that's barren and lifeless ... except for a few penguins. But Antarctica should instead be known as a polar oasis of life, host to countless creatures that are utterly fascinating. So why haven't we seen them on the latest nature documentary? Well, they lurk beneath the snow and ice, virtually invisible to us. They're microbes: tiny plants and animals living embedded inside of glaciers, underneath the sea ice and swimming in subglacial ponds. And they're no less charismatic than any of the megafauna that you're used to seeing in a nature documentary. But how do you compel people to explore what they can't see? I recently led a five-week expedition to Antarctica to essentially become a wildlife filmmaker at the microbial scale. With 185 pounds of gear, I boarded a military aircraft and brought microscopes into the field to film and investigate these microscopic extremophiles, so that we can become more familiar with a poorly understood ecosystem that we live with here on Earth. To film these invisible creatures in action, I needed to see where they call home -- I needed to venture under the ice. Every year, the sea ice nearly doubles the entire size of Antarctica. To get a glimpse below the nine-feet-thick ice, I climbed down a long, metal tube inserted into the sea ice to witness a hidden ecosystem full of life, while being suspended between the seafloor and the illuminated ceiling of ice. Here's what that looked like from the outside. It was just absolutely magical. Some of the critters I found were delightful things like seed shrimp and many more beautiful, geometric diatoms. I then went farther afield to camp out in the Dry Valleys for a couple of weeks. 98 percent of Antarctica is covered with ice and the Dry Valleys are the largest area of Antarctica where you can actually see what the continent itself looks like underneath all of it. I sampled bacteria at Blood Falls, a natural phenomenon of a subglacial pond spurting out iron oxide that was thought to be utterly lifeless until a little more than a decade ago. And I hiked up a glacier to drill down into it, revealing countless, hardcore critters living their best lives while embedded inside layers of ice. Known as cryoconite holes, they form when tiny pieces of darkly colored dirt get blown onto the glacier and begin to melt down into soupy holes that then freeze over, preserving hundreds of dirt pucks inside the glacier, like little island universes each with its own unique ecosystem. Some of the critters I found you may recognize, like this adorable tardigrade -- I absolutely love them, they're like little gummy bears with claws. Also known as a water bear, they're famous for possessing superpowers that allow them to survive in extreme conditions, including the vacuum of space. But you don't need to travel to space or even Antarctica to find them. They live in moss all over this planet, from sidewalk cracks to parks. You likely walk right by tons of these invisible animals every day. Others may look familiar, but be stranger still, like nematodes. Not a snake nor an earthworm, nematodes are a creature all of their own. They can't regenerate like an earthworm or crawl like a snake, but they have tiny, dagger-like needles inside their mouths that some of them use to spearfish their prey and suck out the insides. For every single human on this planet, there exist 57 billion nematodes. And some of the critters you may not recognize at all but live out equally fascinating lives, such as rotifers with amazing crowns that turn into Roomba-like mouths, ciliates with digestive systems so transparent that it's almost TMI, and cyanobacteria that look like party confetti exploded all over a petri dish. A lot of times what we see in popular media are scanning electron microscope images of microorganisms looking like scary monsters. Without seeing them move their lives remain elusive to us despite them living nearly everywhere we step outside. What's their daily life like? How do they interact with their environment? If you only ever saw a photo of a penguin at a zoo, but you never saw one waddle around and then glide over ice, you wouldn't fully understand penguins. By seeing microcreatures in motion, we gain better insights into the lives of the otherwise invisible. Without documenting the invisible life in Antarctica and our own backyards, we don't understand just how many creatures we share our world with. And that means we don't yet have the full picture of our weird and whimsical home planet. Thank you.