August 1, 2012.
Microbial mats are the oldest known ecosystems with an over 3.4 billion-year fossil record. Understanding their structure and function will help us better understand the biological evolution of life on early earth. They are rich in diversity (phylogenetically and physiologically) ranking amongst the most complex systems on earth. In this investigation, we aim to develop an effective method to study microbial mat organisms in relatively uncomplicated ecosystems that mimic the way they grow in nature. By growing “simplified microbial mats” on polypropylene cloth, we are able to observe the range of biogeochemical processes of a single species in a biogeochemical setting that approximates in situ conditions. We are measuring the rate of nutrient consumption, specifically nitrate and phosphate, and hydrogen production, in order to determine if these “simple mats” are behaving as they would in nature. Pulse amplitude modulation (PAM) fluorometer data is recorded daily for regular observations of photosynthetic efficiency of each sample. Overall growth is documented using a digital SLR camera. In addition, microscopic photographs are taken to observe exactly how these organisms are growing and using the polypropylene cloth as a substrate.
Environmental Microbiology and Microbial Ecology | Life Sciences
NASA Ames Research Center (ARC)
This material is based upon work supported by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0952013 and Grant No. 0833353. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation or the National Science Foundation. This project has also been made possible with support of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. The STAR program is administered by the Cal Poly Center for Excellence in Science and Mathematics Education (CESaME) on behalf of the California State University (CSU).