Illuminating microbial dark matter with subterranean geomicrobiology

Project: Research project

Project Details


As a geobiologist working at the interface between geochemistry and microbiology, I propose to illuminate the subterranean biome. Microbial intraterrestrials drive much of Earth’s chemical engine but without cultivation, their metabolisms, isotope effects, biosignatures, and codependency remain obscured. I will bridge this gap by synthesizing cutting-edge techniques in microbiology, geochemistry, and engineering. By cultivating so-called microbial dark matter, I will refine the requirements for life on Earth and beyond, populate the tree of life, and point the way for the production of novel natural products. I plan to cultivate microbial dark matter from a site I know well, the former Homestake Mine. Microbes that survive without light or air underground elude cultivation once in the lab. I propose a new approach, that pairs genomic techniques with customized growth chambers that cater to microbial needs and simulate viable subterranean environments where these sensitive organisms can survive to reveal prolific secrets about genetics, geochemistry, and evolution.
Effective start/end date11/10/1711/9/22


  • David and Lucile Packard Foundation (2017-66820)


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