Dawson collects deep subsurface samples in New Mexico and visits geomicrobiology group in Jena, Germany
Ever thought about how deep life extends into the Earth's crust? That is one of the questions our CZO is exploring after the successful completion of a deep drilling expedition in northern New Mexico (picture at bottom). We are just beginning to discover how deep the surface single extends into the critical zone, the life-giving region on terrestrial earth that ranges from the bottom of aquifers to the tops of trees. These subsurface regions are extremely oligotrophic, meaning they are limited in nutrient and energy inputs. However, microbial life does exist here, and we are using special protocols to extract DNA from rock cores collected from these sensitive deep subsurface samples.
Dawson returned a month ago from a successful training visit as part of the CZO SAVI International Scholars award to visit Kirsten Küsel's geomicrobiology group in Jena Germany. There she learned about how to process and extract DNA from core samples using protocols developed in their lab, allowing better cross-comparisons between sites. The goal was to limit contamination of samples and to successfully obtain DNA from these extremely low DNA environments.
Dawson also gave a talk discussing some of the exciting wildfire research our CZO has been doing, further fostering international exchange of research ideas. She also visited the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry learning about some of the exciting research being conducted there exploring deep subsurface carbon cycling using stable isotopes. She also participated in a 4 day field expedition learning techniques to sample water from deep aquifers. A huge thank you to the host institute and looking forward to future interactions, exchange, and research collaborations.
Core sample collected from 100 ft below Earth's surface. Check out the weathering redox depletion zones! Microbes live in these fractured porous zones of the rock material. This regolith portion of the CZ is an important part of aquifer recharge. Spotted color patterns shown are a product of weathering and biological processes. June 2016