SBI News Archive

This list compiles news and web stories that feature OSU faculty and student work related to the subsurface biosphere.

  • Stephen Giovannoni discovers deepest yet underground life (EarthSky, December 27, 2010) - Stephen Giovannoni is a microbiologist at Oregon State University. He is the lead researcher on the discovery of bacteria found deeper in the Earth ever found before.

  • Biologists rally to sequence ‘neglected’ microbes (Nature; November 17, 2009) - The GenBank sequence database, the central repository of all publicly available DNA sequences, counted its thousandth complete microbial genome this month. “The broad brush strokes of microbial diversity are not adequately represented in that first thousand,” says Stephen Giovannoni, a microbiologist at Oregon State University in Corvallis. “It’s absolutely important that we sequence more.”

  • Geomicrobiology: Low LifeThe boundaries of biology reach farther below Earth’s surface than scientists had thought possible. (Nature, June 11, 2009) ...Now, scientists have come to appreciate these organisms as integral players in global cycles, helping to replenish key minerals in the ocean and even mediating the climate. “As the science matures, there is an ongoing sense of wonder about what’s down there, but we’re also coming to understand how they are involved in the biogeochemical cycling and the health of our planet,” says Rick Colwell, a geomicrobiologist from Oregon State University in Corvallis. The article also mentions research by Martin Fisk.

  • OSU Engineering Student Named Fulbright Scholar (OSU News and Communications Services, 3/16/09) – Danielle Jansik, a graduate student in environmental engineering at Oregon State University, has been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and will study next year in Denmark. Jansik, from Milwaukie, Ore., received a bachelor’s degree in geology from OSU in 2006, and will conduct research on pollution movement through soils during her year abroad.

  • Dig it - Getting down with soil scientists (Oregon's Agricultural Progress, Winter 2009) - Imagine this: You’re a potato farmer, but you start to notice something odd about your sandy soil. When you spray water on the mounds piled around each plant, the droplets roll off the soil like water off a duck’s back. It’s as if someone had sprayed a water repellent on your field. You dig into the top of one of the mounds and see that it’s bone dry. You scoop up a handful and dust trickles through your fingers. You realize that your plants aren’t getting the water they need to survive. Actually, this is happening around Hermiston in northeastern Oregon, where agriculture relies heavily on irrigation. The cause and a solution haven’t been found, but soil scientists at Oregon State University are looking into it. As they well know, in Hermiston and elsewhere, soils can be a mystery.

  • Microbe Community Deep Beneath Arctic Permafrost Needs Study (Ocean & Air, January 2009) - A community of microbes, living in a frigid layer of gas hydrates deep beneath the Arctic permafrost, has piqued the interest of scientists who say a better understanding of that environment is important because it is both a potential fuel source and record of climate change.

  • Microbe Community Deep Beneath Arctic Permafrost Needs Study, Scientist Tells AGU (OSU News and Communications Services; 12/18/08) – A community of microbes, living in a frigid layer of gas hydrates deep beneath the Arctic permafrost, has piqued the interest of scientists who say a better understanding of that environment is important because it is both a potential fuel source and record of climate change. Frederick “Rick” Colwell, a microbiologist from Oregon State University, shared the results of his research at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, outlining how these microbes may have been around for as long as 35 million years, when ancient beach sands were deposited along what is now the North Slope of Alaska. “These microbes co-exist with methane hydrates more than 600 meters beneath the North Slope, just below the permafrost layer,” Colwell said. “It’s an interesting location for life to exist. We don’t understand all the characteristics for life and we need to know more about this novel environment.”

  • OSU research funding grows by $25 million (AP, The Oregonian, The Gazette Times, others, 8/13/08) - Oregon State University has boosted its research funding by $25 million over the last fiscal year. The increase to more than $231 million in external research funding was an 11 percent increase from the previous year and continued an upward trend over the past five years. The OSU College of Science had the most growth, with contracts and grants increasing to $20.7 million, up $5.6 million from the previous year.

  • Laser fluorescence could find life on Mars (Science Daily, 6/24/08)  - A team of scientists from the United States and the United Kingdom has developed a technique using ultraviolet light to identify organic matter in soils that they say could be used to document the existence of life on Mars. …Chemical compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, often are found on comets, meteorites and in space between the stars, and are considered candidates for being one of the earliest forms of organic matter in the universe. Like living organisms, these molecules fluoresce when excited by ultraviolet light, making them an ideal target for using this new technology, according to Martin Fisk, a professor of marine geology at Oregon State University and a co-author of the study.

  • Distinguished Professor, Microbiologist Named Dean of OSU Honors College (OSU News Service, 4/1/08) - "A longtime plant microbiology researcher who holds the highest academic rank possible for faculty at Oregon State University has been named dean of the University Honors College, officials announced today. Daniel J. Arp, one of a handful of current faculty to carry the title of “distinguished professor,” has been at Oregon State since 1990, when he came to Corvallis from the University of California-Riverside. At OSU, he was named the L.L. Stewart Professor of Gene Research in 2002 and department chair of Botany and Plant Pathology in 2004. He will assume leadership of a college known for its academic rigor, currently enrolling approximately 500 students."

  • Fuel cell and ocean sediment microbes - (Microbeworld Radio, 2/21/2008) - Fuel cells designed to run on microbes found in ocean sediment may soon provide a long-term solution for oceanographers who want to embed sensors on the ocean floor. Features OSU graduate student, Mark Nielsen.

  • OSU Soil Microbiology Professors Receive Research Award (OSU News Service, 2/2008) - Two soil scientists at Oregon State University received the Soil Science Society of America Research Award at its annual meetings. Researchers David Myrold and Peter Bottomley focus their work on small organisms that can play a large role in how the earth system functions. They are collaborating on a project funded by the National Science Foundation to study the roles of soil bacteria and fungi in the nutrient uptake of tree roots in old growth coniferous forests.

  • Mud microbes power turtle-tracking sensors (New Scientist, 11/2007) - Ocean sensors that feed on bacteria living in deep sea sediment are being developed by US researchers. The microbial fuel cells used to power the sensors are already helping to remotely track green turtles in the wild. Sophisticated sensors let oceanographers study various aspects of the ocean over long periods of time, but replacing these sensors' batteries can be a complex and costly process, especially if they are positioned far out at sea and deep beneath the surface. Oceanographers at Oregon State University, US, say a simple solution is to harness microbes in sea-floor sediment to provide a constant supply of power instead.

  • Glass Half Full (roughly speaking) - It takes a model to measure subsurface water (Terra, 6/2007) - The next time you sip a glass of spring water, consider this: Before it got to your lips, that water was soaking through soil, creeping along basalt crevices or flowing through porous volcanic rock. It nurtured microbes, carried dissolved minerals and may have spread the byproducts of human activities. Its pivotal role in the environment has made groundwater a headline topic in human health, waste management and water supplies for growing communities. One number — 924 million — indicates how vital groundwater is to Oregon. That’s the number of gallons that the U.S. Geological Survey estimates were pumped from Oregon’s aquifers on an average day in 2000. More than 80 percent went to agriculture, most for irrigation. Read more...

  • Grasping for Air - Nighttime breezes may be key to mountain forests(Terra, 6/2007) - Under a blue sky in mid-March, an Oregon State University research team left Corvallis to collect data in a valley deep in Oregon’s western Cascades. The two-hour ride to the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest gave the technicians and graduate students time to catch up before arriving at the facility’s headquarters near Blue River. They would need their energy for what lay ahead. Their destination was a place known on the Andrews map as watershed 1. Its 60-degree slopes reach almost 1,500 feet from valley floor to ridge. Equipped with lunches, laptops and emergency radios, computer modeler Dave Conklin, technician and graduate student Adam Kennedy and other members of the team drove to the top of the watershed and descended into the forest through dark thickets of ferns, downed wood and moss covered rocks. Once they found the six temperature sensors (known as “HOBOs”) that had been set in a line down the mountain, they checked each HOBO’s battery and downloaded three months worth of data. At lower elevations, graduate student Claire Phillips collected data in soil plots that had been wired and plumbed to monitor temperature, moisture, root growth and CO2 production. Despite the cool temperatures, this was sweaty science, a cycle of rigorous bushwacking followed by meticulous routine. Read more...

  • Lava lamps and other reactions - Researcher studies the interaction of fluids and solids (OSU This Week, 2/5/07) - Dorthe Wildenschild has always been fascinated by lava lamps. Like most people, she loves watching the colorful translucent wax flow through the transparent oil. However, she also enjoys the scientific aspect of lava lamps – the wax being denser than the oil at room temperature, but being lighter than oil at slightly warmer temperatures.Wildenschild, who has been a parttime instructor at OSU since 2002, was hired this past year as a full-time professor as part of the Subsurface Biosphere initiative, one of six strategic initiatives funded by the university. Read more...

  • Experimental forest in running as national research site (Eugene Register-Guard, 1/27/07) - The H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest near Blue River could become part of the biggest and most ambitious ecological research project ever, one that will draw scientists from all over the world in an attempt to answer some of the biggest questions in ecology. The forest is one of several candidates to serve as a core research site for the National Ecological Observatory Network, which will establish 20 biological test sites in every major ecological zone in the country. NEON "is seen as the way to address some of what we call the grand challenge questions,” said Oregon State University forestry professor Barbara Bond, co-director of the Andrews forest. Read more...

  • Rotting leaf litter study could lead to more accurate climate models (Innovations Report, 1/22/07) Over the past decade, in numerous field sites throughout the world, mesh bags of leaf and root litter sat exposed to the elements, day and night, throughout the four seasons, gradually rotting away. Now, those bags of decomposing organic matter have allowed a research team led by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and Colorado State University to produce an elegant and simple set of equations to calculate the nitrogen released into the soil during decomposition, which in turn could significantly improve the accuracy of global climate change models. Read more...

  • Nitrogen Study May Improve Accuracy of Ecological Predictions (OSU News Service, 1/18/07) - The pattern of nitrogen release from decaying plant material is remarkably similar and predictable across the planet, researchers have concluded in a new study, which should make it easier to understand nutrient dynamics, vegetation growth, estimate carbon release and sequestration, and better predict the impacts of climate change. The findings, to be published Friday in the journal Science, are the results of one of the largest and longest studies ever done on nitrogen release during plant decomposition, involving dozens of researchers working for 10 years in 27 sites, ranging from Arctic tundra to tropical forests of North and Central America. “The availability of nitrogen is one of the key factors limiting vegetation growth around the world, but its release from plant litter can be very slow,” said Mark Harmon, a professor of forest science at Oregon State University and the coordinator of the study. “For the first time, we studied this process at enough sites and over a long enough time period to really understand what’s happening.” Read more...

  • Researchers Discover Rich Methane Field off India, But Energy Potential Still Unknown (OSU News Service, 10/18/06) – An international team of scientists looking for gas hydrates off the coast of India has discovered a pair of methane hydrate reservoirs buried in the sediment below the Bay of Bengal, and though the idea of a new energy source is tantalizing, researchers say the technology does not yet exist to make these reservoirs commercially feasible. A similar field of gas hydrates was found off the coast of Oregon a few years ago, said Marta Torres, a marine geochemist at Oregon State University and an investigator on the India and Oregon expeditions. Read more...

  • OSU Graduate School Honors Bottomley with First "Mentor Award" (OSU News Service, 6/13/06) – Peter Bottomley, a professor of microbiology and soil science at Oregon State University, is the inaugural recipient of the Excellence in Graduate Mentoring Award, given by the OSU Graduate School.

  • Science research strong in Corvallis - Study ranks city second in nation (Corvallis Gazette Times, 5/27/06) - Like many college towns, Corvallis has a reputation of being a highly educated community. A recent survey by the National Science Foundation indicates there’s evidence to back up this perception. Corvallis is second in the nation in percentage of scientists, behind only Boulder, Colo., according to the study. With employers such as Oregon State University, Hewlett-Packard Co., CH2M Hill, AVI BioPharma and SIGA Technologies hubbed here, 12.7 percent of Corvallis residents work in science and engineering. Read more...

  • Scientists call Corvallis home (KVAL-TV, 4/27/06) - Many places around the country are often referred to as “college towns” where the local college or university dominates employment, economic and cultural life – but a new study suggests that Corvallis and Oregon State University may really deserve that reputation more than most. According to a recent survey of science and engineering indicators issued by the National Science Foundation, Corvallis ranks second in the nation for the number of scientists as a percentage of total employment – at 12.7 percent.

  • Science and serendipity (The Register-Guard, 3/27/06) - It's not proof, but it might be evidence: A team of scientists at Oregon State University and elsewhere have found microscopic structures in a meteorite from Mars. These structures resemble tiny tunnels found in rocks on Earth that are believed to be created by bacteria. The similarity could be a sign that Mars once harbored life - pretty amazing...

  • Life in Tiny Tunnels? (Astrobiology Magazine, 3/26/06) - A new study of a meteorite that originated from Mars has revealed a series of microscopic tunnels that are similar in size, shape and distribution to tracks left on Earth rocks by feeding bacteria. And though researchers were unable to extract DNA from the Martian rocks, the finding nonetheless adds intrigue to the search for life beyond Earth. Results of the study were published in the latest edition of the journal Astrobiology...

  • Did Scientists Find Life in Tiny Martian Tunnels? (RedOrbit, 3/26/06) - A new study of a meteorite that originated from Mars has revealed a series of microscopic tunnels that are similar in size, shape and distribution to tracks left on Earth rocks by feeding bacteria. And though researchers were unable to extract DNA from the Martian rocks, the finding nonetheless adds intrigue to the search for life beyond Earth. Results of the study were published in the latest edition of the journal Astrobiology. Martin Fisk, a professor of marine geology in the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University and lead author of the study, said the discovery of the tiny burrows do not confirm that there is life on Mars, nor does the lack of DNA from the meteorite discount the possibility...

  • Tiny tunnels in Mars rock hint at life’s traces (MSNBC, 3/23/06) - A study of a meteorite that fell in Egypt nearly 95 years ago may offer clues in the search for possible life on Mars. Researchers studying the meteorite that originated from Mars found a series of microscopic tunnels within the object that mimic the size, shape and distribution of tracks left on Earth rocks by the feeding frenzy of bacteria. Martin Fisk, a professor of marine geology in the College of Oceanic and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University in Corvallis, is lead author of a study team's research findings, published in the February issue of the bimonthly journal Astrobiology and announced Thursday...

  • Mars meteorite similar to bacteria-etched earth rocks (Mars Today, 3/23/06 ) - A new study of a meteorite that originated from Mars has revealed a series of microscopic tunnels that are similar in size, shape and distribution to tracks left on Earth rocks by feeding bacteria. And though researchers were unable to extract DNA from the Martian rocks, the finding nonetheless adds intrigue to the search for life beyond Earth. Results of the study were published in the latest edition of the journal Astrobiology...

  • Study of Martian Meteorite Reveals Markings Similar to Bacteria-Etched Rocks on Earth (OSU News Service, 3/23/06) - A new study of a meteorite that originated from Mars has revealed a series of microscopic tunnels that are similar in size, shape and distribution to tracks left on Earth rocks by feeding bacteria. And though researchers were unable to extract DNA from the Martian rocks, the finding nonetheless adds intrigue to the search for life beyond Earth. Results of the study were published in the latest edition of the journal Astrobiology. This release ran on various wire services and websites including the Albany Democrat Herald.

  • Odd energy mechanism in bacteria analyzed (Terra Daily, 11/4/05) - Scientists at Oregon State University have successfully cultured in a laboratory a microorganism with a gene for an alternate form of photochemistry – an advance that may ultimately help shed light on the ecology of the world's oceans. The microorganism is SAR11, the smallest free living cell known and probably the most abundant organism in the seas.

  • OSU's microbial observatory allows scientists to glimpse the microscopic menagerie that connects forests and soil (Oregon's Agricultural Progress, Summer 2005) - When most people think of an observatory, they think of a telescope — an instrument that extends our vision into hidden corners of the universe. A microbial observatory is like that, only the instruments point in the other direction. Scientists at Oregon State University have developed a microbial observatory at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest, using tools such as biochemical tests and DNA analysis to gaze down into the universe of microscopic bacteria, fungi and other creatures living, metabolizing, reproducing and dying beneath our feet.

  • Small microbes do big things for OSU researchers (OSU Daily Barometer, Spring 2005) - Just below our feet, the ground teems with tiny microbes that might solve massive scientific conundrums for the Oregon State University researchers who study them. The Subsurface Biosphere Education and Research Initiative is one of six areas recently targeted for concentrated funding and efforts at OSU. Potential research avenues range from decomposition of harmful chemicals in the environment to the search for life on other planets.

  • Initiative seeks to capture the mystery of microbes (OSU This Week, 2/2005 ) - Cleaning up contaminated areas like the Portland Harbor Superfund site and the Umatilla Weapons Depot. Slowing global warming. Removing pesticides to improve water quality. These are all gigantic endeavors, but ones that Oregon State University researchers believe can possibly be accomplished by the tiniest of organisms microbes that just might also hold the key to life on Mars.

  • OSU selects six initiatives for investment, growth (OSU News Service, 1/26/2005) - Oregon State University has identified six strategic initiatives for investment that will bring to the university new centers for research and outreach, additional faculty, and undergraduate and graduate student scholarships, internships and educational opportunities. These initiatives support OSU's recently adopted strategic plan. The university is reallocating funds internally to provide seed funding for the initiatives.