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January 2009
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Research Feature: Benthic Microbial Fuel Cells

Photo of Mark Nielsen. In December, Mark Nielsen, an Earth’s Subsurface Biosphere IGERT student, defended his Ph.D. on benthic microbial fuel cells. These devices use sea floor microbes to generate electricity and could one day be used to power oceanographic instruments.  Link to a Web interview where Mark describes his research, particularly experiments he carried out at deep ocean seeps in Monterey Canyon, California. Mark also described this work in a November 2008 article in Energy and Environmental Science.


Summer 2009 Undergraduate Internships Available

Do you know any undergraduates who would enjoy working on a summer project related to the subsurface biosphere? Please encourage them to apply for an SBI internship. SBI will support up to 20 interns this summer with the goal of stimulating interest in the subsurface biosphere and encouraging undergraduates to pursue graduate school. The program focuses on, but is not limited to, under-represented minority and women students. The SBI will support monthly hourly costs for each intern of up to $1333/month and $4000 total. This support can be augmented with research funds from the intern's faculty mentor. Applications will be reviewed on receipt. Approval is contingent on the availability of a faculty mentor and a suitable research project. Applicants are encouraged to seek out their own faculty mentor (see the SBI faculty directory) and to apply early because of the limited number of internships available. For more information please see


Upcoming Events

Thursday, January 8 4:00-5:00 p.m., ALS 4001. Antioxidants and Nitrogen Fixation in Soybean: From RNAi to IV Drips (Crop and Soil Science Seminar). Presenter - David Dalton, Professor, Biology Department, Reed College. FMI:

Tuesday, January 13, noon, 208 OSU Memorial Union. IGERT Brown Bag organized by the OSU Research Office for teams interested in submitting letters of intent for the National Science Foundation (NSF) - Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) Program. The Research Office Letter of Intent submission deadline is Monday, January 26, 2009. For more information call Debbie Delmore at 541-737-8390.

Wednesday, January 21, 3:30-4:30 p.m, ALS 4001. Roberto Kolter, Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Harvard (CGRB Seminar). Host: Steve Giovannoni.

Monday, January 26, 4-5 p.m., ALS 4000. Exploring the Role of Competition in Ectomycorrhizal Fungal Interactions (Crop and Soil Science Seminar). Presenter - Peter Kennedy, Assistant Professor, Lewis and Clark College. FMI:

Conference Information

14 January 2009. Deadline to submit abstracts for the 10th International Symposium on Bacterial Genetics and Ecology. It will be held in the historic academic town of Uppsala, Sweden, from 15-19 June 2009. The 10th BAGECO conference will focus on bacteria in the world around us, and the implications of a changing climate and other anthropogenic influences on bacterial genetics and ecology. Climate change is now accepted as a serious challenge to global ecosystems, but the extent of its impact on bacterial communities has only begun to be explored. Importantly, microbial community activity and function may change as a result of changing climatic and other human-induced conditions and these changes may further impact ecosystems.

February 15, 2009. Deadline to apply to participate in the ASM Faculty Programs Summer Bioinformatics Institutes - The program is planned for June 14-17, 2008, in Walnut Creek, CA. The Institute is directed to STEM faculty who teach undergraduate courses at community colleges, 4-year colleges, and research universities and who consider themselves true beginners when it comes to understanding and using bioinformatics tools. The Institute features the analysis of microbial genomes, molecular sequences, and structural data, providing a framework for developing classroom activities and research projects for undergraduate students.

Link to a calendar of other related events...


Opportunities for Students

Student Travel Grants for the 109th General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology - Awards of $500 will be given to approximately 160 students who will be presenting a poster at the meeting which will be held May 17-21, 2009, in Philadelphia, Pa. Letters of recommendation for student travel grants are due January 15, 2009. There is also a travel grant program for under-represented minority (URM) post-doctoral scholars and faculty which are due January 30, 2009.

Marine Biological Laboratory Fellowships. A variety of summer fellowships are available for undergrads through recent Ph.Ds. Proposals for fellowship support will be considered in, but are not limited to, the following fields of investigation: cellular and molecular physiology, neurobiology, parasitology, molecular biology, developmental biology, ecology, microbiology, innate immunity, and tissue engineering. Funding requires a minimum stay of six weeks at the MBL in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Applications due January 15, 2009, for summer fellowships.

Association for Women in Science Undergraduate and Predoctoral Fellowships. Awards of $1,000 are to female students enrolled in a behavioral, life, physical, or social science or engineering programs.The award may be used for any aspect of education, including tuition, books, housing, research, travel and meeting registration, or publication costs, for example. Applications due: January 23, 2009, for undergraduates; January 30, 2009, for predocs.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hollings Undergraduate Scholarships - This program is designed to increase undergraduate training in oceanic and atmospheric science, research, technology, and education and foster multidisciplinary training opportunities. It provides up to $8000 of tuition assistance for two years and a summer internship. Applications due January 30, 2009.

American Society for Microbiology Undergraduate Research Fellowship (URF) and the Microbiology Undergraduate Research Fellowship (MURF). These research fellowships support undergraduate students who wish to pursue graduate careers (Ph.D. or MD/Ph.D.) in microbiology. URF fellows spend a minimum of 10 weeks in the summer conducting microbiology-related research with an ASM member faculty mentor at the fellows’ home institutions. Fellows present their research results at the next year’s ASM General Meeting. The MURF is a 10-week summer program that supports participation by historically excluded and underrepresented students in research projects at sponsoring U.S. institutions. Fellows present their research results at the next year’s ASM General Meeting. A joint application from both the student and faculty mentor is required for consideration into the program. The application deadline is February 1, 2009.

The National Academies Research Associateship Program. The Research Associateship awards are open to doctoral level scientists and engineers (U.S and Foreign Nationals) who can apply their special knowledge and talents to research areas that are of interest to them and to the participating host laboratories and centers. Awards are available for Postdoctoral Associates (within 5 years of the doctorate) and Senior Associates (normally 5 years or more beyond the doctorate). Associates conduct research in residence at the participating host laboratory they have chosen. Among the fellowship opportunities is the The National Energy Technology Laboratory Methane Hydrates Fellowship Program (NETL/ MHFP). Applications due: February 1, 2009.

ASM Congressional Science Fellowship. This program selects a postdoctoral to mid-career microbiologist to spend one year on the staff of an individual congressman, congressional committee or with some other appropriate organizational unit of Congress. The award will include a $60,000 stipend plus health care. The fellowship runs from September 1, 2009 to August 31, 2009. Applications due: February 20, 2009.

American Philosophical Society, Lewis and Clark Fund in Exploration and Field Research in Astrobiology - The program provides funding for field studies in any area of interest to astrobiology. Its scope includes research of contemporary locations on Earth that might be similar to early earth and to environments elsewhere in our Solar System. Its scope also includes investigations into extreme natural environments on Earth. Grants will be available to graduate students and postdoctoral and junior scientists who wish to participate in field studies for their theses or for other purposes. Awards are for up to $5,000. Grants are payable to the individual applicant. Applications due February 1, 2009.

ASM's Microbiology Undergraduate Research Fellowship - The goal of this program is to increase the number of underrepresented undergraduate students who wish to, and have demonstrated the ability to pursue graduate careers (Ph.D. or MD/Ph.D.) in microbiology. Students will have the opportunity to conduct full time summer research with an ASM member at their home institution or at a host institution, and present research results at the Annual Biomedical Research Conference for Minority Students and the ASM General Meeting. The program provides up to $5,850. Applications due February 1, 2009.


Funding Opportunities for Faculty

(listed by due date)

Preproposal due: 16 January 2009. USDA CSREES AFRI - Soil Processes (Full proposal due: 17 March 2009).

Description: FY 2009 Priorities for Research Projects: 1. Interdisciplinary studies involving the interrelationships among soil physical, chemical, and biological characteristics and processes related to soil quality and sustainability, especially regarding water and nutrients in relation to agricultural quality, productivity, and environmental health. 2. Multi-scale research that can help bridge the gap between molecular and microscopic site process studies and field landscape and/or watershed-scale studies relating to soil quality. 3. Development and/or application of new or improved technologies, methodologies, tools, or strategies to enhance our understanding of biological, biogeochemical, and physical processes. In addition, these methods or tools should be used to enhance our understanding of dynamic properties in soils related to agricultural production, as well as soil and environmental health, focusing specifically on water, carbon, and nutrient cycles at multiple scales where appropriate. FY 2009 Priority for Education Projects: 1. Development of innovative activities, courses or programs for either graduate and/or undergraduate students to incorporate climate change issues into soil science programs or integrate soil science curricula into climate change related courses, majors, or programs. Since soil science encompasses many sub-disciplines, activities should be interdisciplinary in nature. Integration of advanced and emerging research techniques such as advanced modeling methods, synchrotron radiation based techniques, visualizations, nanotechnology, genomics, and remote sensing is strongly encouraged.
Funding Details: Research projects: up to $450,000 for multi-institution proposals, or $350,000 for single institution projects for 2-4 years. Education projects: up to $150,000 for 2-3 years.

Preproposal due: 5 February 2009. USDA CSREES AFRI Microbial Genomics: Functional Genomics of Microorganisms (Full Proposal due: 16 April 2009).

Description: The Functional Genomics program element of the Microbial Genomics Program increases the understanding of the biological role of gene sequences in agriculturally important microorganisms and links these sequences to physiological functions or agricultural and food processes involving microbes. The goal of the program is to support large-scale functional analysis of genomic sequences of agriculturally relevant microbes. FY 2009 Priorities for Research Projects: 1.Characterization of mechanisms of pathogenicity by microorganisms; 2.Characterization of mechanisms of non-pathogenic interactions between microbes or between microbes and their hosts; and 3. Characterization of mechanisms used by microorganisms to survive or respond to environmental changes.
Funding Details: Total funding: Approximately $6 million, including $5 million for research projects and up to $1 million for an education project.

2 March 2009. NSF Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET) - Environmental Engineering.

Description: This cluster focuses on research on innovative biological, chemical, and physical processes used alone or as components of engineered systems to restore the usefulness of polluted land, water, and air resources. Major areas of interest and activity in the program include developing innovative biological, chemical, and physical treatment processes to remove and degrade pollutants from water and air; measuring, modeling and predicting the movement and fate of pollutants in the environment; and developing and evaluating techniques to clean up polluted sites, such as landfills and contaminated aquifers, restore the quality of polluted water, air, and land resources and rehabilitate degraded ecosystems.

2 March 2009. NSF Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems (CBET) - Environmental Sustainability.

Description: This program supports engineering research that seeks to balance society's need to provide ecological protection and maintain stable economic conditions. Research is encouraged to advance the next generation of water and wastewater treatment that will decrease material and energy use, consider new paradigms for delivery of services, and promote longer life for engineered systems. Other activities of interest include Advancing engineering methods to promote smart growth strategies, Integrating economic development and protection of natural resources, Regenerating ecological functions of degraded environments, Understanding how large complex environmental systems behave, and Developing effective principles for adaptive management of such systems.

2 March 2009. USDA CSREES and NSF Microbial Genome Sequencing Program.

Description: The sequences are expected to be available to and used by a community of investigators to address issues of scientific and societal importance including: novel aspects of microbial biochemistry, physiology, metabolism, development and cellular biology; the diversity and the roles microorganisms play in complex ecosystems and in global geochemical cycles; the impact that microorganisms have on the productivity and sustainability of agriculture and natural resources (e.g., forestry, soil and water), and on the safety and quality of the nation's food supply; and the organization and evolution of microbial genomes, and the mechanisms of transmission, exchange and reshuffling of genetic information.
Funding Details: Awards ranging between $100,000 to $1,200,000 total, for periods of up to three years.

The SBI has funding available for proposal development and maintains a list of external grant opportunities related to the subsurface biosphere.

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