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  • richardmitnick 9:07 am on May 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Marsarchaeota microbes, Microbiology, , Yellowstone volcano   

    From Science Alert: “A New Yellowstone Park Discovery Points Back to The Origins of Life” 

    ScienceAlert

    From Science Alert

    1
    (Ajith Kumar/iStock)

    17 MAY 2018
    DAVID NIELD

    These microbes basically live in acid.

    Scientists have found a new lineage of microbes in the famously hot and acidic spring waters of Yellowstone National Park in the US, a discovery that promises to teach us more about the origins of life on our planet.

    These single-cell organisms, from the archaea domain of life, seem to thrive in the thermal springs of Yellowstone where iron oxide is the main mineral.

    Because the surface of Mars is made up of the same sort of materials, the researchers have named the lineage Marsarchaeota.

    The conditions inside the springs of Yellowstone are thought to match the conditions on the early Earth, and that’s why these Marsarchaeota microbes can be so helpful – they can show us how organisms sparked into life, and what role iron oxide may have played.

    “The discovery of archaeal lineages is critical to our understanding of the universal tree of life and evolutionary history of Earth,” write the researchers [Nature Microbiology].

    “The broad distribution of Marsarchaeota in geothermal, microaerobic iron oxide mats suggests that similar habitat types probably played an important role in the evolution of archaea.”

    Using a variety of techniques – including microscopic analysis and genome sequencing – the team studied microbial mats in Yellowstone Park springs that are about as acidic as grapefruit juice.

    Two groups of Marsarchaeota were identified, one living in temperatures above 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) and the other living in temperatures between 60 and 80 degrees Celsius (140 to 176 degrees Fahrenheit).

    Samples were taken from across Yellowstone Park, with these archaea lineages sometimes making up as much as half the organisms inside a single microbial mat.

    The mats themselves have been turned red by the iron oxide, which also slows the passage of water across the top of the mats. Oxygen is captured from the atmosphere and supplied to the Marsarchaoeta as water trickles over them – though the microbes are very deep, they only require low levels of oxygen.

    “Physics comes together with chemistry and microbiology,” says senior researcher William Inskeep, from Montana State University. “It’s like a sweet spot of conditions that this group of organisms likes.”

    By adding these archaea to “the universal tree of life”, we can get a better idea of the ancient organisms that first sprung up on the planet, and maybe then answer the broader question of how they evolved into multi-celled eukaryotes – animals and plants.

    One idea is that these Marsarchaeota might be involved in converting iron into a simpler form. They don’t produce iron oxide themselves, as other microbes do.

    “Iron cycling has been implicated as being extremely important in early Earth conditions,” says Inskeep.

    More close observation will be required to figure out how this particular type of microbe can flourish in these conditions, and what its role might have been before any other type of life appeared on Earth.

    And the potential benefits to science don’t end there. Further down the line these microorganisms could give us more clues about how life is potentially surviving on Mars, as well as some of the fundamentals about biology at higher temperatures.

    “Knowing about this new group of archaea provides additional pieces of the puzzle for understanding high-temperature biology,” says Inskeep.

    “That could be important in industry and molecular biology.”

    See the full article here .

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    • stewarthoughblog 11:43 pm on May 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply

      And what precisely about the origin of life is this supposed to point to? The Mars/iron association is hardly more than wishful association. There is some interesting science relative to archaea and such, but hardly any solution to any of the intractable naturalistic conjectures being offered as serious solutions to naturalistic origin of life. The prospect of offering any serious contribution to the origin of life is overly optimistic faith in an ideology that has no viable solutions.

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  • richardmitnick 10:40 am on March 9, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Microbiology,   

    From WCG “Microbiome Immunity Project Already Extending the Known Universe of Protein Structures” 

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    WCG Microbiome Immunity Project

    7 Mar 2018
    By: Tomasz Kosciolek, PhD
    UC San Diego Center for Microbiome Innovation

    Summary
    The Microbiome Immunity Project is off to a great start on predicting the structures of hundreds of thousands of bacterial proteins within the human gut. Read about their progress and their plans in their first project update.

    Background

    The Microbiome Immunity Project was created to better understand the role of the microbiome in intestinal immune response and diseases such as Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) and Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). In this project, we predict structures of bacterial proteins and use this information to annotate their functions and to understand host-microbiome interactions which are responsible for the pathology of IBD and T1D. This is a massive undertaking, as the human gut microbiome has more than 2 million unique proteins, with hundreds of thousands of proteins potentially interacting with human cells. A project of this scale is only possible thanks to the power of World Community Grid.

    Our Progress So Far

    With your help, we have already predicted the structures of over 50,000 prioritized proteins! In the grand scheme of the 2 million unique bacterial proteins in our gut, this may not seem like a lot, but keep in mind that the experimental work to date covers only approximately 125,000 proteins. In only 6 months we have made tremendous progress by extending our universe of known protein structures by almost 28 percent!

    You may have already realized that at this pace, predicting all bacterial protein structures would take years to complete. Fortunately, we don’t have to predict every single structure, because proteins can be grouped into families. These families consist of proteins with similar structures and functions, enabling a comprehensive understanding of the family’s function with only one representative member per family. Once we identify protein families of interest, we will investigate them in more detail.

    In the meantime, we have adjusted our strategy on how to prioritize the predictions. Instead of looking only at bacterial genomes (genes of an individual bacterial species), we are investigating bacterial pangenomes (genes of all bacterial strains belonging to the same species). We then prioritize those pangenomes according to their prevalence between individuals in cohort studies investigating the role of microbiome in IBD and T1D. This approach enables us to have the most impact early in the project. We not only have thorough information on microbes involved in T1D and IBD specifically, but we have also expanded our knowledge of the microbiome in general.

    We are now extracting information from your predictions, and during the course of the project we plan to make the data available to the public for other exciting research. We are also working on methods to improve predictions of protein functions, enabling us to find the important protein families involved in T1D and IBD among thousands of predictions we have made so far.

    All this progress has been made possible thanks to your generous contributions! There is still a lot to discover about the microbiome, but with each computation that you support we are getting a step closer to having a more detailed picture of this important ecosystem inside each of our bodies and understanding IBD and T1D. So, thank you and let’s continue working together on unraveling the mysteries of microbiome!

    See the full article here.

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  • richardmitnick 12:52 pm on December 26, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , J. William Schopf, John Valley, , Microbiology, Oldest fossils ever found show life on Earth began before 3.5 billion years ago, SIMS-secondary ion mass spectrometer, Some represent now-extinct bacteria and microbes from a domain of life called Archaea, The study describes 11 microbial specimens from five separate taxa, ,   

    From U Wisconsin Madison and UCLA: “Oldest fossils ever found show life on Earth began before 3.5 billion years ago” 

    U Wisconsin

    University of Wisconsin

    UCLA bloc

    UCLA

    December 18, 2017
    Kelly April Tyrrell
    ktyrrell2@wisc.edu

    1
    Geoscience Professor John Valley, left, and research scientist Kouki Kitajima collaborate in the Wisconsin Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer Lab (WiscSIMS) in Weeks Hall. Photo: Jeff Miller

    Researchers at UCLA and the University of Wisconsin–Madison have confirmed that microscopic fossils discovered in a nearly 3.5 billion-year-old piece of rock in Western Australia are the oldest fossils ever found and indeed the earliest direct evidence of life on Earth.

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    An epoxy mount containing a sliver of a nearly 3.5 billion-year-old rock from the Apex chert deposit in Western Australia is pictured at the Wisconsin Secondary Ion Mass Spectrometer Lab (WiscSIMS) in Weeks Hall. Photo: Jeff Miller

    The study, published Dec. 18, 2017 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was led by J. William Schopf, professor of paleobiology at UCLA, and John W. Valley, professor of geoscience at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The research relied on new technology and scientific expertise developed by researchers in the UW–Madison WiscSIMS Laboratory.

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    J. William Schopf, U Wisconsin Madison

    5
    John Valley, UCLA

    2
    An example of one of the microfossils discovered in a sample of rock recovered from the Apex Chert. A new study used sophisticated chemical analysis to confirm the microscopic structures found in the rock are biological. Courtesy of J. William Schopf

    The study describes 11 microbial specimens from five separate taxa, linking their morphologies to chemical signatures that are characteristic of life. Some represent now-extinct bacteria and microbes from a domain of life called Archaea, while others are similar to microbial species still found today. The findings also suggest how each may have survived on an oxygen-free planet.

    The microfossils — so called because they are not evident to the naked eye — were first described in the journal Science in 1993 by Schopf and his team, which identified them based largely on the fossils’ unique, cylindrical and filamentous shapes. Schopf, director of UCLA’s Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life, published further supporting evidence of their biological identities in 2002.

    He collected the rock in which the fossils were found in 1982 from the Apex chert deposit of Western Australia, one of the few places on the planet where geological evidence of early Earth has been preserved, largely because it has not been subjected to geological processes that would have altered it, like burial and extreme heating due to plate-tectonic activity.

    But Schopf’s earlier interpretations have been disputed. Critics argued they are just odd minerals that only look like biological specimens. However, Valley says, the new findings put these doubts to rest; the microfossils are indeed biological.

    “I think it’s settled,” he says.

    Using a secondary ion mass spectrometer (SIMS) at UW–Madison called IMS 1280 — one of just a handful of such instruments in the world — Valley and his team, including department geoscientists Kouki Kitajima and Michael Spicuzza, were able to separate the carbon composing each fossil into its constituent isotopes and measure their ratios.

    Isotopes are different versions of the same chemical element that vary in their masses. Different organic substances — whether in rock, microbe or animal ­— contain characteristic ratios of their stable carbon isotopes.

    Using SIMS, Valley’s team was able to tease apart the carbon-12 from the carbon-13 within each fossil and measure the ratio of the two compared to a known carbon isotope standard and a fossil-less section of the rock in which they were found.

    “The differences in carbon isotope ratios correlate with their shapes,” Valley says. “If they’re not biological there is no reason for such a correlation. Their C-13-to-C-12 ratios are characteristic of biology and metabolic function.”

    Based on this information, the researchers were also able to assign identities and likely physiological behaviors to the fossils locked inside the rock, Valley says. The results show that “these are a primitive, but diverse group of organisms,” says Schopf.

    The team identified a complex group of microbes: phototrophic bacteria that would have relied on the sun to produce energy, Archaea that produced methane, and gammaproteobacteria that consumed methane, a gas believed to be an important constituent of Earth’s early atmosphere before oxygen was present.

    3
    UW–Madison geoscience researchers on a 2010 field trip to the Apex Chert, a rock formation in western Australia that is among the oldest and best-preserved rock deposits in the world. Courtesy of John Valley

    It took Valley’s team nearly 10 years to develop the processes to accurately analyze the microfossils — fossils this old and rare have never been subjected to SIMS analysis before. The study builds on earlier achievements at WiscSIMS to modify the SIMS instrument, to develop protocols for sample preparation and analysis, and to calibrate necessary standards to match as closely as possible the hydrocarbon content to the samples of interest.

    In preparation for SIMS analysis, the team needed to painstakingly grind the original sample down as slowly as possible to expose the delicate fossils themselves — all suspended at different levels within the rock and encased in a hard layer of quartz — without actually destroying them. Spicuzza describes making countless trips up and down the stairs in the department as geoscience technician Brian Hess ground and polished each microfossil in the sample, one micrometer at a time.

    Each microfossil is about 10 micrometers wide; eight of them could fit along the width of a human hair.

    Valley and Schopf are part of the Wisconsin Astrobiology Research Consortium, funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute, which exists to study and understand the origins, the future and the nature of life on Earth and throughout the universe.

    Studies such as this one, Schopf says, indicate life could be common throughout the universe. But importantly, here on Earth, because several different types of microbes were shown to be already present by 3.5 billion years ago, it tells us that “life had to have begun substantially earlier — nobody knows how much earlier — and confirms it is not difficult for primitive life to form and to evolve into more advanced microorganisms,” says Schopf.

    Earlier studies by Valley and his team, dating to 2001, have shown that liquid water oceans existed on Earth as early as 4.3 billion years ago, more than 800 million years before the fossils of the present study would have been alive, and just 250 million years after the Earth formed.

    “We have no direct evidence that life existed 4.3 billion years ago but there is no reason why it couldn’t have,” says Valley. “This is something we all would like to find out.”

    UW–Madison has a legacy of pushing back the accepted dates of early life on Earth. In 1953, the late Stanley Tyler, a geologist at the university who passed away in 1963 at the age of 57, was the first person to discover microfossils in Precambrian rocks. This pushed the origins of life back more than a billion years, from 540 million to 1.8 billion years ago.

    “People are really interested in when life on Earth first emerged,” Valley says. “This study was 10 times more time-consuming and more difficult than I first imagined, but it came to fruition because of many dedicated people who have been excited about this since day one … I think a lot more microfossil analyses will be made on samples of Earth and possibly from other planetary bodies.”

    See the full U Wisconsin article here .
    See the full uCLA article by Stuart Wolpert here.
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    • stewarthoughblog 1:44 am on December 27, 2017 Permalink | Reply

      Schopf’s wishful speculation that what was discovered indicates life must be common is intellectually insulting with his failure that somehow live emerged rapidly, which strains the slow, methodical Darwinian theory of how life developed, given the relative complexity of the microorganisms. This is a wonderful discovery, but does nothing to solve the origin of life and raises serious questions about the power of naturalism to explain the origin of life as well as the rapid development of higher order complex organisms.

      The only extraterrestrial organisms that will be found will be those of Earth origin.

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  • richardmitnick 8:33 am on October 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: All important research in what is a chipping away of the many unknowns in the stories of the origins of Earth and the origin of life, , , Flow of electrons (electricity) from the core of the Earth, Geobiochemistry, , , Microbiology   

    From Many Worlds: “2.5 Billions Years of Earth History in 100 Square Feet’ 

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    Many Worlds

    2017-10-19
    Marc Kaufman

    1
    Scalding hot water from an underground thermal spring creates an iron-rich environment similar to what existed on Earth 2.5 billion years ago. (Nerissa Escanlar)

    Along the edge of an inlet on a tiny Japanese island can be found– side by side – striking examples of conditions on Earth some 2.4 billion years ago, then 1.4 billion years ago and then the Philippine Sea of today.

    First is a small channel with iron red, steaming and largely oxygen-free water – filled from below with bubbling liquid above 160 degrees F. This was Earth as it would have existed, in a general way, as oxygen was becoming more prevalent on our planet some 2.4 billion years ago. Microbes exist, but life is spare at best.

    Right next to this ancient scene is region of green-red water filled with cyanobacteria – the single-cell creatures that helped bring masses of oxygen into our atmosphere and oceans. Locals come to this natural “onsen” for traditional hot baths, but they have to make their way carefully because the rocky floor is slippery with green mats of the bacteria.

    And then there is the Philippine Sea, cool but with spurts of warm water shooting up from below into the cove.

    All of this within a area of maybe 100 square feet.

    It is a unique hydrothermal scene, and one recently studied by two researchers from the Earth-Life Science Institute in Tokyo – microbiologist Shawn McGlynn and ancient virus specialist Tomohiro Mochizuki.

    They were taking measurements of temperature, salinity and more, as well as samples of the hot gas and of microbial life in the iron-red water. Cyanobacterial mats are collected in the greener water, along with other visible microbe worlds.

    2
    Microbiologist Shawn McGlynn of the Earth Life Science Institute in Tokyo scoops some iron-rich water from a channel on Shikine-jima Island, 100 miles from Tokyo. (Nerissa Escanlar)

    The scientific goals are to answer specific questions – are the bubbles the results of biology or of geochemical processes? What are the isotopic signatures of the gases? What microbes and viruses live in the super-hot sections? And can cyanobacteria and iron co-exist?

    All are connected, though, within the broad scientific effort underway to ever more specifically understand conditions on Earth through the eons, and how those conditions can help answer fundamental questions of how life might have begun.

    “We really don’t know what microbiology looked like 2.5 billion or 1.5 billion years ago,” said McGlynn, “But this is a place we can go where we can try to find out. It’s a remarkable site for going back in time.”

    In particular, there are not many natural environments with high levels of dissolved iron like this site. Yet scientists know from the rock record that there were periods of Earth history when the oceans were similarly filled with iron.

    Mochizuki elaborated: “We’re trying to figure out what was possible chemically and biologically under certain conditions long ago.

    “If you have something happening now at this unusual place – with the oxygen and iron mixing in the hot water to turn the water red – then there’s a chance that what we find today was there as well billions of years ago. ”

    3
    Tomohiro Mochizuki at collecting samples directly from the spot where 160 degree F water pushes up through the rock at Jinata hot spring. (Nerissa Escanlar)

    The Jinata hot springs, as the area is known, is on Shikine-jima Island, one of the furthest out in the Izu chain of islands that starts in Tokyo Bay. More than 100 miles from Tokyo itself, Shikine-jima is nonetheless part of Tokyo Prefecture.

    The Izu islands are all volcanic, created by the underwater movements of the Philippine and Pacific tectonic plates. That boundary remains in flux, and thus the hot springs and volcanoes. The terrain can be pretty rugged: in English, Jinata translates to something like Earth Hatchet, since the hot spring is at the end of a path through what does look like a rock rising that had been cut through with a hatchet.

    Hot springs and underwater thermal vents have loomed large in thinking about origins of life since it became known in recent decades that both generally support abundant life – microbial and larger – and supply nutrients and even energy in the form of electricity from vents and electron transfers from chemical reactions.

    And so not surprisingly, vents are visited and sampled not infrequently by ELSI scientists. McGlynn was on another hydrothermal vent field trip in Iceland over the summer with, among others, ELSI Origins Network fellow Donato Gionovelli and ELSI principal investigator and electrochemist Ruyhei Nakamura..

    McGlynn’s work is focused on how electrons flow between elements and compounds, a transfer that he sees as a basic architecture for all life. With so many compelling flows occurring in such a small space, Jinata is a superb laboratory.

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    The volcanic Izu island chain, starting in Tokyo Bay and going out into the Philippine Sea.

    For Mochizuki, the site turned out to be exciting but definitely not a goldmine. That’s because his speciality is viruses that live at very high temperatures, and even the bubbling hot spring in the iron trench measured about 73 degrees C (163 degrees F.) The viruses he incubates live at temperatures between closer to 90 C (194 F), not far from the boiling point.

    His goal in studying these high-temperature (hyperthermophilic) viruses is to look back to the earliest days of life forming on Earth, using viruses as his navigators. Since life is thought by many scientists to have begun in a super hot RNA world, Mochizuki wants to look at viruses still living in those conditions today to see what they can tell us.

    So far, he explained, what they have told us is that the RNA in the earliest lifeforms on Earth – denizens of the Archaean kingdom – did not have viruses. And this is puzzling.

    So Mochizuki is always interested in going to sample hot springs and thermal vents to collect high temperature viruses, and to look for surprises.

    Though the bubbling waters were so hot that both researchers had difficulty standing in the water with boots on and holding their collection vials with gloves, it was not hot enough for what Mochizuki is after. But that certainly didn’t stop him from taking as many samples as he could, including some for other ELSI researchers doing different work but still needing interesting samples.

    Researchers often need to be inventive on field trips, and that was certainly the case at Jinata. When McGlynn first tried to sample the bubbles at the scalding spring, his hands and feet quickly felt on fire and he had to retreat.

    To speed the process, he and Mochizuki built a funnel out of a large plastic water bottle, a device that allowed the bubbles to be collected and directed into the sample vial without the gloved hands being so close to the heat. The booted feet, however, remained a problem and the heat just had to be endured.

    Nearby the steaming bubbling of the hot spring were collections of what appeared to be fine etchings on the bottom of the red channel. These faint designs, McGlynn explained, were the product of a microbe that makes it’s way along the bottom and deposits lines of processed iron oxide as it goes. So while the elegant designs are not organic, the creatures that creates them surely is.

    “Touch the area and the lines go poof,” McGlynn said. “That’s because they’re just the iron oxide; nothing more. Next to us is the water with much less iron and a lot more oxygen, and so there are blooms of (green) cyanobacteria. Touch them and they don’t go poof, they stick to your hand because they’re alive.”

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    Patterns created by microbes as they deposit iron oxide at the bottom of small channel. (Marc Kaufman)

    McGlynn also collects some of the the poofs to get at the microbes making the unusual etchings. It may be a microbe never identified before.

    As a microbiologist, he is of course interested in identifying and classifying microbes. He initially thought the microbes in the iron channel would be anaerobic, but he found that even tiny amount of oxygen making their way into the springs from the atmosphere made most aerobic, or possibly anaerobes capable of surviving with oxygen (which usually is toxic to them.)

    He also found that laboratory studies that found cyanobacteria would not flourish in the presence of iron were not accurate in nature, or certainly were not accurate at Jinata onsen.

    But it is that flow of electrons that really drives McGlynn – he even dreams of them at night, he told me.

    One of the goals of his work, and that of his colleague and sometimes collaborator at ELSI, geobiochemist Yuichiro Ueno, is to answer some of the outstanding questions about that flow of electrons (electricity) from the core of the Earth. The energy transits through the mantle, to the surface and then often is in contact with the biosphere (all living things) before it enters the atmosphere and sometimes disappears into space.

    He likened the process to the workings of a gigantic battery, with the iron core as the cathode and the oxygen in the atmosphere as the anode. Understanding the chemical pathways traveled by the electrons today, he is convinced, will tell a great deal about conditions on the early Earth as well.

    It’s all important research in what is a chipping away of the many unknowns in the stories of the origins of Earth and the origin of life.

    6
    A boundary between where the very hot iron-rich water meets and the less hot water with thriving cyanobacteria colonies at Jinata.

    The field work also illustrated the hit-and-miss nature of these kind of outings. While McGlynn has not come up with Jinata surprises or novel understandings, he was so taken with the setting that he wondered if a seemly empty building not too far from the site could be turned into an ELSI marine lab.

    And while Mochizuki did not find sufficiently hot water for his work, he might still be coming back to the island, or others nearby. That’s because he learned of a potentially much hotter spring at a spot where the sea hits one of the island’s steep cliffs – a site that requires boat access that was unsafe in the choppy waters during this particular visit.

    In addition, McGlynn and Mochizuki did make some surprising discoveries, though they didn’t involve microbes, electron transfer or viruses.

    During a morning visit to a different hot spring, they came across a team of what turned out to be officials of the Izu islands – all dressed in suits and ties. They were visiting Shikine-jima as part of a series of joint islands visit to assess economic development opportunities.

    The officials were intrigued to learn what the scientists were up to, and made some suggestions of other spots to sample. One was an island occupied by Japanese self-defense forces and generally closed to outsiders. But the island is known to have areas of extremely hot water just below the surface of the land, sometimes up to 100 C (212 F.)

    The officials gave their cards and told the scientists to contact them if they wanted to get onto that island for sampling. And as for the official from Shikine-jima, he was already thinking big.

    “It would be a very good thing,” he said, “if you found the origin of life on our island.

    See the full article here .

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    About Many Worlds

    There are many worlds out there waiting to fire your imagination.

    Marc Kaufman is an experienced journalist, having spent three decades at The Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer, and is the author of two books on searching for life and planetary habitability. While the “Many Worlds” column is supported by the Lunar Planetary Institute/USRA and informed by NASA’s NExSS initiative, any opinions expressed are the author’s alone.

    This site is for everyone interested in the burgeoning field of exoplanet detection and research, from the general public to scientists in the field. It will present columns, news stories and in-depth features, as well as the work of guest writers.

    About NExSS

    The Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) is a NASA research coordination network dedicated to the study of planetary habitability. The goals of NExSS are to investigate the diversity of exoplanets and to learn how their history, geology, and climate interact to create the conditions for life. NExSS investigators also strive to put planets into an architectural context — as solar systems built over the eons through dynamical processes and sculpted by stars. Based on our understanding of our own solar system and habitable planet Earth, researchers in the network aim to identify where habitable niches are most likely to occur, which planets are most likely to be habitable. Leveraging current NASA investments in research and missions, NExSS will accelerate the discovery and characterization of other potentially life-bearing worlds in the galaxy, using a systems science approach.
    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation’s civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research.

    President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1958 with a distinctly civilian (rather than military) orientation encouraging peaceful applications in space science. The National Aeronautics and Space Act was passed on July 29, 1958, disestablishing NASA’s predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). The new agency became operational on October 1, 1958.

    Since that time, most U.S. space exploration efforts have been led by NASA, including the Apollo moon-landing missions, the Skylab space station, and later the Space Shuttle. Currently, NASA is supporting the International Space Station and is overseeing the development of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle and Commercial Crew vehicles. The agency is also responsible for the Launch Services Program (LSP) which provides oversight of launch operations and countdown management for unmanned NASA launches. Most recently, NASA announced a new Space Launch System that it said would take the agency’s astronauts farther into space than ever before and lay the cornerstone for future human space exploration efforts by the U.S.

    NASA science is focused on better understanding Earth through the Earth Observing System, advancing heliophysics through the efforts of the Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Research Program, exploring bodies throughout the Solar System with advanced robotic missions such as New Horizons, and researching astrophysics topics, such as the Big Bang, through the Great Observatories [Hubble, Chandra, Spitzer, and associated programs. NASA shares data with various national and international organizations such as from the [JAXA]Greenhouse Gases Observing Satellite.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:31 am on December 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Microbiology,   

    From U Michigan: “Duhaime Lab undergrad awarded prestigious ASM fellowship” 

    U Michigan bloc

    University of Michigan

    Dec 21, 2015
    Gail Kuhnlein

    1
    Alexi Schnur is attempting to isolate Lake Erie viruses that infect the bloom-forming bacterium Microcystis, the algae responsible for toxic algal blooms in Western Lake Erie.

    Alexi Schnur, an undergraduate who has worked in the lab of Dr. Melissa Duhaime since her first week freshman year, was awarded a prestigious American Society for Microbiology Undergraduate Research Fellowship. Schnur is attempting to isolate and describe viruses infecting the harmful algal bloom-forming bacterium, Microcystis, that ravages Lake Erie each summer.

    Schnur is a currently a junior in the Michigan Biology Academy Scholars Program (M-BIO) and the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) at the University of Michigan. Duhaime, a research scientist in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, is Schnur’s mentor on her research project: “Microcystis Viruses – Hunting the Killers of Lake Erie’s Algal Blooms.” Schnur is an interdisciplinary astronomy major who plans to declare microbiology as another major once she finishes the introductory classes. She’s been interested in microbiology since becoming an undergraduate, which led her to virology studies in the Duhaime lab, where she is an undergraduate researcher.

    2

    “Along with fellow U-M undergrad, Paulina Devlin, I am currently trying to isolate Microcystis viruses on seven different cultures of non-colonial strains of the bacterium Microcystis,” Schnur said. Non-colonial strains are bacterial strains that are not forming colonies, but are single-cellular strains. “Viruses were collected weekly from Lake Erie during the 2014 and 2015 bloom seasons, May through November. We then apply these to the Microcystis cultures and monitor for clearing of the culture, which would indicate infection and the presence of Microcystis-infecting viruses.

    “Our work is not motivated by trying to eliminate the bloom. We suspect that there is a complicated relationship between Microcystis and its viruses in Lake Erie, and it is improbable that one virus exists that would kill the bloom-forming Microcystis in all places and across the entire bloom season. Isolating a virus from Lake Erie that is found to infect Microcystis would be an important step to learning more about these relatively unknown viruses and the role they play in the evolution of the bloom during a summer season. We also have metagenomic data of the Microcystis viruses during the 2014 bloom that would allow us to possibly identify and track a Microcystis virus through the genomic data to learn about their evolution and ecology if we are unable to isolate a virus in the lab.”

    They have evidence of Lake Erie viruses that have killed several strains of Microcystis. Their next challenge is to isolate these infecting viruses and reproduce the results, which she said is proving to be a real challenge.

    Currently, Schnur plans to attend graduate school for microbiology to obtain her doctorate degree. A future career track she is considering is to research extremophiles (microbes that live in/on inhospitable environments).

    The ASM fellowship is aimed at highly competitive students who wish to pursue graduate careers (Ph.D. or M.D./Ph.D.) in microbiology. Fellows have the opportunity to conduct full-time summer research at their home institution with an ASM mentor and present their research results at the 2016 ASM Microbe Meeting in Boston, Mass. if their abstract is accepted.

    Each fellow receives up to a $4,000 stipend, a two-year ASM student membership, and funding for travel expenses to the ASM Research Capstone Institute and ASM Microbe Meeting.

    The American Society for Microbiology is the largest single life science society, composed of over 39,000 scientists and health professionals. ASM’s mission is to promote and advance the microbial sciences.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U MIchigan Campus

    The University of Michigan (U-M, UM, UMich, or U of M), frequently referred to simply as Michigan, is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States. Originally, founded in 1817 in Detroit as the Catholepistemiad, or University of Michigania, 20 years before the Michigan Territory officially became a state, the University of Michigan is the state’s oldest university. The university moved to Ann Arbor in 1837 onto 40 acres (16 ha) of what is now known as Central Campus. Since its establishment in Ann Arbor, the university campus has expanded to include more than 584 major buildings with a combined area of more than 34 million gross square feet (781 acres or 3.16 km²), and has two satellite campuses located in Flint and Dearborn. The University was one of the founding members of the Association of American Universities.

    Considered one of the foremost research universities in the United States,[7] the university has very high research activity and its comprehensive graduate program offers doctoral degrees in the humanities, social sciences, and STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as well as professional degrees in business, medicine, law, pharmacy, nursing, social work and dentistry. Michigan’s body of living alumni (as of 2012) comprises more than 500,000. Besides academic life, Michigan’s athletic teams compete in Division I of the NCAA and are collectively known as the Wolverines. They are members of the Big Ten Conference.

     
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