Presentation Title

Biomineralization by Bacteria Isolated from Iron Curtain Cave Popcorn Speleothem Samples

Format of Presentation

15-minute lecture to be presented the Saturday of the conference

Location

IB 1015

Start Date

24-3-2018 3:15 PM

End Date

24-3-2018 3:30 PM

Abstract

Caves are home to a wide variety of microbes which are able to survive and thrive in hypogenic environments. Caves present an extreme habitat to many species, with low levels of organic matter, cold temperatures, no light, and high mineral content. However, the unique conditions in caves may support microorganisms with uncommon metabolic pathways, including some microbes that can precipitate calcium carbonate and other minerals as a by-product of their distinctive metabolic activities. Through the precipitation of minerals onto their surfaces, microbes contribute to the formation of many cave structures, like speleothems (secondary mineral deposits). The objectives of this research are to isolate the microbes in popcorn speleothems and characterize their ability to precipitate calcium carbonate in a lab setting by growing them in B4 medium, a precipitation medium. So far, the isolation of bacteria from the popcorn speleothem has yielded 35 bacterial isolates. In addition, chemical analysis of the cave speleothems by Atomic Absorption Spectrometry is used to determine what minerals are present in the environment the microbes are living in. As cave bacteria are representative of early life on Earth, understanding the role they play in the carbon cycle shows us how they may have facilitated the development of other lifeforms by reducing carbon dioxide in the environment. In addition, studies of biomineralization may provide evidence for potential heavy metal bioremediation practices, as many bacteria and fungi have high heavy metal tolerance. Furthermore, microbial mineral precipitation has potential applications in the development of biocements for building materials.

Department

Biological Sciences

Faculty Advisor

Naowarat Cheeptham

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Mar 24th, 3:15 PM Mar 24th, 3:30 PM

Biomineralization by Bacteria Isolated from Iron Curtain Cave Popcorn Speleothem Samples

IB 1015

Caves are home to a wide variety of microbes which are able to survive and thrive in hypogenic environments. Caves present an extreme habitat to many species, with low levels of organic matter, cold temperatures, no light, and high mineral content. However, the unique conditions in caves may support microorganisms with uncommon metabolic pathways, including some microbes that can precipitate calcium carbonate and other minerals as a by-product of their distinctive metabolic activities. Through the precipitation of minerals onto their surfaces, microbes contribute to the formation of many cave structures, like speleothems (secondary mineral deposits). The objectives of this research are to isolate the microbes in popcorn speleothems and characterize their ability to precipitate calcium carbonate in a lab setting by growing them in B4 medium, a precipitation medium. So far, the isolation of bacteria from the popcorn speleothem has yielded 35 bacterial isolates. In addition, chemical analysis of the cave speleothems by Atomic Absorption Spectrometry is used to determine what minerals are present in the environment the microbes are living in. As cave bacteria are representative of early life on Earth, understanding the role they play in the carbon cycle shows us how they may have facilitated the development of other lifeforms by reducing carbon dioxide in the environment. In addition, studies of biomineralization may provide evidence for potential heavy metal bioremediation practices, as many bacteria and fungi have high heavy metal tolerance. Furthermore, microbial mineral precipitation has potential applications in the development of biocements for building materials.