Applied and Environmental Science

Not Time Sensitive:
the microbiome throughout earth’s history

When we talk about microbiomes, most people think of host-associated microbial communities. This makes sense because the term was first made popular by the Human Microbiome Project.  Now, however, it has a broader meaning and refers to microbial communities everywhere, from buildings to natural hot springs.  Microbial life can be found in the strangest places, and microbiome research is as diverse as the subjects it addresses.

Between June 17th and July 22nd, 2017, an international group of students will learn about the microbiome in yet another context: the earth’s history.  For most of the time our planet has been in existence, only microbial life could thrive.  How microbes survived and influenced the conditions of early earth is one of the key questions in the field of geobiology.

Caltech and USC’s Wrigley Institute are hosting the Agouron International Geobiology course, to give graduate students and postdocs the tools to reach beyond their own field and tackle this interdisciplinary problem.  To chart our world’s history accurately, we must examine rock records and the biomarkers we find in them.

Taking water chemistry and microbiome samples at Mono Lake, CA

Curious?  Check out more here or follow along with #GeoBio17 on twitter for ongoing updates!




2017-07-19 07:45:57

Which technologies will they use for studying? Where can I read an article about results?

    Daan Speth

    2017-07-24 13:39:33

    Hi Hamro, this years' course used a range of techniques to study the 3 field sites (Mono Lake, the Monterey formation, and tar and sulphur seeps entering Santa Paula Creek). The work on Mono Lake included metagenomics, water column chemistry analyses, incubation experiments, lipid biomarker analysis of the sediment, and clumped isotope thermometry of recent and ancient sediments. The students of the course integrated a lot of these data types in their final presentations, but an article on the results is still some time off. best, Daan

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