WIT Breakfast: Spelunking, Electron Microscopes, Alien Life Forms – Oh My!
November 20, 2013 @ 8:30 am - 10:00 am
NOTE: DIFFERENT DATE DUE TO HOLIDAY
DISCOVERING NOVEL MICROBES IN CAVES – not your basic WIT topic!
Join Dr. Diana Northup for a unique WIT talk. She has been has been studying things that live in caves since 1984 and has been featured on NOVA. She has a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of New Mexico where she is a Professor Emerita. Her husband is an award winning photographer and some of his pictures, as well as pictures of microbes from an electron scanning telescope will be shared with us.
We are just beginning to learn about the microbes that live in caves throughout the world. Using genetic sequencing to explore microbial diversity and scanning electron microscopy to image this very tiny life, we are beginning to understand what these microbes look like and their varied roles within cave ecosystems. These microbes exist in an environment where there is little to eat, perpetual darkness, cold, humid conditions. Some “eat rock” using reduced chemical compounds within the rock for their energy. Some produce antimicrobial compounds that might some day provide us with new antibiotics. Other microbes give us clues relevant to detecting life on other Solar System bodies such as Mars. And, they’re all very photogenic in the scanning electron microscope!
About our speaker:
Diana Northup has been studying things that live in caves since 1984. She has a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of New Mexico. She and her colleagues on the SLIME (Subsurface Life In Mineral Environments) Team are investigating how microbes help form the colorful ferromanganese deposits that coat the walls of Lechuguilla and Spider Cave in Carlsbad Caverns National Park; how microbes participate in the precipitation of calcium carbonate formations called pool fingers; and the microbial diversity located in the hydrogen sulfide cave, Cueva de las Sardinas in Tabasco, Mexico and lava caves in the Azores, Hawai‘i, New Mexico, and California. Across these study environments, she also investigates “microbes that masquerade as minerals,” to help better detect life on extraterrestrial bodies. She has mentored numerous and diverse high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. Diana has been honored by having her work featured on NOVA, CNN, Discovery Channel, National Geographic and by being named a Fellow of the AAAS. Currently, she is Professor Emerita and a Visiting Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at the University of New Mexico, where she is actively researching cave geomicrobiology using geochemical, molecular and microscopy techniques. She was just awarded the Science Award by the National Speleological Society.
NOTE: There is a nominal charge for breakfast for all attendees and an additional charge for non-members. Visit http://www.nmtechcouncil.org/membership-options for more information on membership. See registration page for pricing.
Regular meetings are the 4th Thursday of each month in the morning.