Deep, dark secrets: Research goes underground

June 8, 2010

By Flinn Foundation

[Source: ASU News] – This is spelunking with a twist. This is academic spelunking that is uncovering answers to questions. It is cave exploration that is helping sharpen the skills of tomorrow’s microbiologists.

Welcome to Todd Sandrin’s classroom. The associate director of the New College Division of Mathematical and Natural Sciences and his students, supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Microbial Observatories grant provided to the University of Arizona (Raina Maier, principal investigator), are exploring the microbes that dwell in Kartchner Caverns southeast of Tucson. They are hoping to gain insights into whether those microbes help form many of the magnificent cave structures, such as stalactites and stalagmites, in the caves. With funding from the NSF, the research has yielded what Sandrin believes are never before described bacteria from the caverns.

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