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U.S. Geological Survey - Microbiology

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Researchers investigate how microbes interact with the nonliving parts of Earth such as soils, sediment, and atmosphere.

Geomicrobiology Research Activities

Geomicrobiology (sometimes the broader term “geobiology” is used) is the interdisciplinary study of the interactions of microorganisms and earth materials (including soil, sediment, the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, minerals, and rocks). Microbes play a quantitatively dominant role in which geology, biology, chemistry, and hydrology intersect within the Earth’s surface (Nealson and others, 2001). Modern molecular techniques (the use of nucleic-acid base sequencing technology to identify the phylogenetic groups present within mixed microbial populations) have significantly extended the classical approaches. Insights gained from the application of new tools have exposed previously unrecognized ties between the biological and geological worlds. Metagenomics (the genomic analysis of microbial communities) may be a tool to characterize the combined functions of microorganisms at a given place in the environment and to track a system’s fundamental biotic response to evolving environmental factors. These molecular technologies are at the cutting edge of science. Because of the importance of microorganisms to the earth system, and because of the explosion in the power of tools that are becoming available to understand and describe the functionality of these microorganisms, the USGS should expand its current geomicrobiology research, building upon the excellent work already underway.
Quoted from the USGS Science Strategy
(p. 58)

Acid Mine Drainage
Iron-rich wetland resulting from weathering of sulfide minerals from nearby country rock near Silverton, Colorado. Photo credit: Mark R. Stanton, USGS
Microbiology of Acid Mine Drainage
A “red mat” biofilm in a hot spring on Paoha Island in Mono Lake
Geomicrobiology, Biochemistry, Biogeochemistry
Collaborators Karen Merrit and Aria Amirbahman setting up experiments at Penobscot Estuary. Photo credit: Celia Chen Estuarine Sediments; Louisiana Estuarine and Wetland Gradients; Stream Ecosystems; Methylation and Microbial Community Structure; Plant-Microbe Interactions in Wetland Sediments; San Francisco Bay Salt Pond Restoration; Urban Salt Marsh Restoration
Selenium icon
Microbial Selenium Cycle in Nature
Storm Impacts
Open water in post-Katrina marsh, Louisiana. Photo credit: J. Holloway, USGS
Biogeochemistry and Microbial Community Structures in Louisiana Coastal Marshes

Related links and References