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Microbes in soil
Winter 2017

The microbe whisperers

Tarah Sullivan is fiercely insistent that we are all interconnected. The Washington State University soil microbiologist and ecologist says that understanding those connections is key to a healthy future.

“I know it sounds a little hokey,” the mother of two daughters apologizes without backing down: “Microorganisms connect everything everyday in every way. We absolutely could not survive on the planet without active and healthy microbiomes, in humans and in the environment.”

Sullivan’s work focuses on how microbial communities in soil impact heavy metal biogeochemistry. Many metals are important micronutrients for both plants and animals—but too much of a good thing can make plants sick. … » More …

Microbes in water
Winter 2017

What’s that bacteria? Check the 16S

There are millions of microorganisms in a drop of pond water—but who are they? There are bacteria, protozoa, hydras, arthropods—all manner of critters are in that drop of water. Dividing them up by genera and species, though, is tricky because many bacteria look similar. That makes identifying the members of a microbial community difficult.

A new way of identifying microbes is with the tools of the genomicist. Just as we can sequence the genome of a single organism, so too can we now sequence a drop of pond water, kefir, milk, or fecal material to see who lives there.

Researchers look at a particular gene, … » More …

Videos: Meet the Scientist – Cynthia Haseltine and microbiology research on Archaea

Our DNA suffers damage all the time-from cosmic rays, exposure to chemicals, simple wear & tear-and is constantly being repaired. But when something goes wrong in the repair process, says WSU microbiologist Cynthia Haseltine, “bad things happen.” Among the worst of those bad things is lymphoma, a cancer of white blood cells.

In a series of four brief video clips produced by Adam Ratliff and Cherie Winner for Washington State Magazine Online, Haseltine describes how she’s working to understand the process of DNA repair and the causes of lymphoma, with the help of a microbe that has an unusual lifestyle and an uncanny resemblance to … » More …

Winter 2007

Creatures from the Dark Lagoons

Cynthia Haseltine wants everyone to know that the microbes she works with are not bacteria.

They look like bacteria; each Sulfolobus is a single cell that has one circular chromosome and lacks a nucleus. But in their genes and the way they read and repair their DNA, these organisms bear a closer resemblance to us than to bacteria—and those similarities make Sulfolobus an excellent model system for learning about how our cells handle DNA, and how the process sometimes goes wrong.

Haseltine’s microbes belong to the group of organisms known as Archaea (ar-KAY-uh). Most Archaea are extremophiles, living in hot, saline, acidic, or other extreme … » More …