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Posts Tagged ‘December 2015’

Emerging Frontiers in Geomicrobiology

The interdisciplinary field of geomicrobiology and microbial geochemistry (GMG) has provided surprising insights into microbial function and preservation in diverse environments. The emerging frontiers in GMG are driven by recent discoveries in material sciences, economic geology, human health, and paleontology. The length-scales and mechanisms by which organisms can transfer electrons are being redefined, which have implications ranging from the formation of ore deposits to microbial function in the human body. Pathways of biomineralization are a critical control for many fossilization processes. Microbiologically produced materials also exhibit great potential for technological and medical applications.

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Emerging Biogeochemical Views of Earth’s Ancient Microbial Worlds

Microbial processes dominate geochemical cycles at and near the Earth’s surface today. Their role was even greater in the past, with microbes being the dominant life form for the first 90% of Earth’s history. Most of their metabolic pathways originated billions of years ago as both causes and effects of environmental changes of the highest order, such as the first accumulation of oxygen in the oceans and atmosphere. Microbial processes leave behind diverse geochemical fingerprints that can remain intact for billions of years. These rock-bound signatures are now steering our understanding of how life coevolved with the environments on early Earth and are guiding our search for life elsewhere in the universe.

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Cryptic Cross-Linkages Among Biogeochemical Cycles: Novel Insights from Reactive Intermediates

The biogeochemical cycling of major and minor elements in the ocean has direct bearing on the health of the planet and its inhabitants. Reactive intermediates, of both chemical and biological origin, are emerging as important players in these biogeochemical cycles. Due to their rapid production and consumption, these reactive intermediates are short-lived and typically in low concentration. Involvement of these “invisible” species in biogeochemistry may therefore be hidden, or cryptic, with no obvious lingering chemical signature. Here, we highlight reactive intermediates of the oxygen, manganese, and sulfur cycles and how these intermediates are involved in cryptic cross-linkages between marine biogeochemical cycles of global importance.

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Omic Approaches to Microbial Geochemistry

The past two decades have witnessed an explosion of DNA sequencing technologies that provide unprecedented insights into genome sequences­—the blueprints of life on Earth. Although initially driven by biomedical research, this revolution offers exciting opportunities in Earth sciences. Analyzing genomes and other biomolecules (“omic” methods) within environmental samples provides new vistas of microbial geochemistry. However, the massive amount of data produced can be hard to decipher, and the resources and infrastructure to train and support geoscientists in omics approaches are lacking. This article summarizes some of the opportunities and challenges in the applications of omic approaches to geochemical problems.

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Principles of Geobiochemistry

The basic premise of geobiochemistry is that life emerged on Earth where there were opportunities for catalysis to expedite the release of chemical energy in water–rock–organic systems. In this framework, life is a planetary response to the dilemma that cooling decreases the rates of abiotic processes to the point that chemical energy becomes trapped. Catalysis via metabolism releases the trapped energy, and life benefits by capturing some of the energy released. Out of necessity, biochemical processes have geochemical origins, and geobiochemistry asserts that these origins can be revealed by mapping reaction mechanisms onto deep time. We propose five principles that should help guide research in the emerging field of geobiochemistry.

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Geomicrobiology and Microbial Geochemistry

Geomicrobiology and microbial geochemistry (GMG) investigates the interaction between Earth, environmental systems, and microbial life. Microbes shape their geochemical surroundings through their metabolic and growth needs and thereby exert significant geochemical and mineralogical control on their local environments. In turn, local geochemical conditions dictate what metabolic processes are possible. These mutual influences mean that microbial evolution has occurred in concert with changing geosphere conditions and that microbes have driven major shifts in ocean, continent and atmospheric chemistry. If one wishes to understand element cycling in any system containing water, one must realize that microbes are critical to the story.

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Toward a Stable Earth System…or a Journey to Points Unknown?

Dear Friends. As our final issue of Elements goes to press for 2015, the news bulletins over the past year call out for introspection about the future. For example, critical events have precipitated a tremendous migration from the Middle East to points unknown. This massive current of humanity is a reminder of the broader fact that our entire civilization has embarked on an uncharted journey. As the year ends with seven billion people, we continue the march to a world population of nine billion within only 35 years.

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About v11n6, 2015 Summary, 2016 Preview, v11n2 Errata

Microbiology (or biology) may not be your favorite subject. Or maybe you dreaded taking “life science” courses while at the university. Even if life science is not your preferred area of interest, we hope you read the articles in this issue. Earth science is inherently interdisciplinary because on planet Earth, the lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere interact. We can’t comprehensively study one “sphere” without knowing something about the other “spheres.”

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Earth Scientists Elected to the Academia Europea

Download Article (PDF) December 2015 Issue Table of Contents Thematic ArticlesEditorialFrom the EditorsPerspectiveMeet the AuthorsBook ReviewParting ShotsPeople In The NewsSociety News In 2015, five Earth scientists were elected as members of the Academia Europaea (www.ae-info.org). Academia Europaea was founded in 1988 and is a European, nongovernmental association that acts as an academy and has about 2800…

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