U.S. Geological Survey - Microbiology
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.
Related links and References
*this list of USGS scientists involved in geomicrobiology is likely to be incomplete