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Press release

May- 2022

Studying ways to maximize environmental benefits of green algae

     There's a special class of green algae that has the potential to revolutionize sustainability efforts. These so-called diatoms are abundant in nature and their structures could be used for environmentally friendly, high-value products, technologies to clean our air and new methods to purify our water. Furthermore, their residual biomass could become sources of green energy, reducing future carbon emissions.

Source: Phys

 

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Microplastics threaten typical remote cryospheric regions

     Microplastics usually refer to plastic fibers, films, fragments, and microbes with size less than five millimeters. They are widely distributed in water, soil, sediment, the atmosphere, and even snow and ice, which impacts Earth's climate and environment.

Source: Phys

 

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Beyond flora and fauna: Why it's time to include fungi in global conservation goals

     Other forms of life are also under pressure, but they are harder to count and assess. Some scientists have warned of mass insect die-offs, although others say the case hasn't been proved. And then there are fungi—microbes that often go unnoticed, with an estimated 2 million to 4 million species. Fewer than 150,000 fungi have received formal scientific descriptions and classifications.

Source: Phys

 

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'Coarse-graining' can help scientists understand complex microbial ecosystems, theory suggests

     When many microbes live together and grow in interrelated ways, it can be hard to identify the functional role of any individual player. But some complex microbial ecosystems could actually be easier to understand than those with fewer players, according to a new study in Physical Review X led by theoretical physicist Mikhail Tikhonov at Washington University in St. Louis.

Source: Phys

 

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April- 2022

Scientists find a hidden source of greenhouse gases: Organic matter in groundwater

     Groundwater has been hugely beneficial to us for use in agriculture or as drinking water. As the world warms and waterways dry up, this extraction will only increase. But there's a hidden problem. We used to think the organic matter in groundwater didn't react when brought up. Sadly, the reverse is true. Our new research published in Nature Communications has found when groundwater—especially from deep down—is pumped to the surface, it brings with it dissolved organic matter preserved from long ago. Once sunlight and oxygen hit this matter, it can easily turn into carbon dioxide.

Source: Phys

 

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Microbial response to a changing and fire-prone arctic ecosystem

     Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities have caused Earth's climate to change—and in Arctic regions, air temperatures are warming twice as fast as the global average. Permanently frozen Arctic soils located in tundra ecosystems store approximately twice the amount of carbon currently in the atmosphere. This frozen organic matter is thawing, thus increasing microbial decomposition, which releases carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Arctic climate change can also lead to more droughts, lower air moisture, and more lightning—all factors that can increase the frequency and intensity of wildfires.

Source: Phys

 

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Marine microbes swim towards their favorite food

     Although invisible to us, every teaspoon of seawater contains more than a million marine bacteria. These tiny microbes play pivotal roles in governing the chemical cycles that control our climate and shape the health of the global ocean, but are they passive drifters or purposeful hunters? New research demonstrates that bacteria in the ocean use similar behaviors to many foraging animals, swimming through their environment while hunting and selecting their preferred "food" among a soup of chemicals in seawater.

Source: Phys

 

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Wastewater provides a planet-wide laboratory for the study of human health

     Of the many contemporary conveniences often taken for granted in developed countries, modern sanitation may be among the most important. A new study suggests that wastewater infrastructure may provide societal benefits far beyond the dramatic improvements in community hygiene. The research highlights a technique known as Wastewater-based Epidemiology (WBE), in which samples of municipal wastewater can be used as a diagnostic tool to explore a surprisingly broad range of community-wide health indices.

Source: Phys

 

 

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March- 2022

Adding fungi to soil may introduce invasive species, threatening ecosystems

     Invasive, alien species are bad for ecosystems. They reduce bidoversity and disrupt food chains, including our own. History is full of examples of intentional and unintentional introductions of invasive species. The introduction of cane toads to Northern Australia in the 1930s to fight cane beetles led to decline of many native predators. The fungus that causes chestnut blight snuck into North America via infected nursery stock; four billion trees died in 40 years.

Source: Phys

 

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Sponges, not just their microbes, make biologically potent compounds

     Soft and immobile, sea sponges may appear inert, but these simple animals are rich with chemistry. From them, scientists have uncovered plenty of biologically active compounds, some of which have gone on to become medications. All of these small molecules, however, actually originate from bacteria living within these animals. Now, new research has uncovered an exception. Today, scientists report that sponges themselves, not their resident microbes, produce at least one promising group of compounds.

Source: Phys

 

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Without helpful microbes, tadpoles can't stand the heat

     In a warming world, animals could live or die by what's in their gut. That's one conclusion of a new study by Pitt biologists showing that tadpoles are less able to cope with hot temperatures without the help of microbes. The results could spell a one-two punch for amphibians and other sensitive animals.

Source: Phys

 

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Bacteria genes gave ancient plants traits to colonize land

     Genes jumping from microbes to green algae hundreds of millions of years ago might have driven the evolution of land plants, researchers report March 1 in the journal Molecular Plant. Their analysis reveals that hundreds of genes from bacteria, fungi, and viruses have been integrated into plants, giving them desirable traits for a terrestrial life.

Source: Phys

 

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February- 2022

Soil pH drives the distribution of soil bacterial communities along a short elevational gradient

     Soil microbes are highly diverse and play a key role in the regulation of biogeochemical cycling processes and the maintenance of ecosystem functions. Knowledge of the elevational distribution patterns of soil microbes and the driving mechanisms will be essential to understand the impact of climate change and anthropogenic disturbances on terrestrial ecosystems.This study demonstrates that soil bacterial communities on Zijin Mountain are significantly distinct along a small elevation gradient, and soil pH is the most important driver of the community variation. The researchers' finding appeared December 23, 2021 in Soil Ecology Letters.

Source: Phys

 

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Researchers discover how deep-sea bacteria sense blue light

     As a ubiquitous energy source and environmental signal, light affects the lifestyle of organisms living in the photiczone. Different forms of geoluminescence or bioluminescence exist not only in hydrothermal areas but also in other deep-sea habitats such as cold seeps. However, the responses of deep-sea microbes to light are largely unknown, even though blue light is proposed to be distributed in the deep ocean.

Source: Phys

 

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Microorganism discovered in spacecraft assembly facility named for Berkeley Lab microbiologist

     Space exploration has allowed humans to journey from earth to space—but humans may not be the only organisms hitching a ride by spacecraft. Microbiologists who study extreme environments are on the lookout for microorganisms present on spacecraft surfaces that could potentially contaminate the pristine environments of outer space. Now a new fungal strain has been discovered in a spacecraft assembly facility and named after a long-time Berkeley Lab microbiologist, Tamas Torok.

Source: Phys

 

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A microbial compound in the gut leads to anxious behaviors in mice

     A Caltech-led team of researchers has discovered that a small-molecule metabolite, produced by bacteria that reside in the mouse gut, can travel to the brain and alter the function of brain cells, leading to increased anxiety in mice. The work helps uncover a molecular explanation for recent observations that gut microbiome changes are associated with complex emotional behaviors.

Source: Phys

 

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January- 2022

Team develops microscope to image microbes in soil and plants at micrometer scale

     Live imaging of microbes in soil would help scientists understand how soil microbial processes occur on the scale of micrometers, where microbial cells interact with minerals, organic matter, plant roots and other microorganisms. Because the soil environment is both heterogeneous and dynamic, these interactions may vary substantially within a small area and over short timescales.

Source: Phys

 

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Bacteria build communities using chemical signals comparable to radio waves

     The thought of bacteria joining together to form a socially organized community capable of cooperation, competition and sophisticated communication might at first seem like the stuff of science fiction—or just plain gross. But biofilm communities have important implications for human health, from causing illness to aiding digestion. And they play a role in a range of emerging technologies meant to protect the environment and generate clean energy.

Source: Phys

 

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Scientists map geographic patterns of soil microbe communities in Hexi Corridor deserts

     A research group led by Li Yuqiang from the Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources (NIEER) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences recently mapped biogeographic patterns of soil microbe communities in the Hexi Corridor deserts of northern China.

Source: Phys

 

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Copper-based chemicals may be contributing to ozone depletion

     Copper released into the environment from fungicides, brake pads, antifouling paints on boats and other sources may be contributing significantly to stratospheric ozone depletion, according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley. In a paper appearing this week in the journal Nature Communications, UC Berkeley geochemists show that copper in soil and seawater acts as a catalyst to turn organic matter into both methyl bromide and methyl chloride, two potent halocarbon compounds that destroy ozone. Sunlight worsens the situation, producing about 10 times the amount of these methyl halides.

Source: Phys

 

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