Art Project: “Extreme Environments”

My name is Kjersten Williams. For my art project, I decided to go with mixed media. I constructed the microbes’ background environments out of paper and colored pencil, and made the microbes themselves out of modeling clay, giving the project a bit of visual depth. For my subject, I decided to focus on a specific group of microbes: the temperature extremophiles. I wanted to showcase the variety of different morphologies and habitats of these microbes (through the relatively accurate depiction of the microbes and their respective environments), while also making a statement against the general belief that all microbes are “bad’ (hence, the added shaky eyes to make them cuter and more personable). These microbes live in environments which would be deemed uninhabitable to the majority of life forms on Earth. Due to their resilience and adaptability, they represent the type of organism which astrobiologists may be most likely to find on other planets!

There are a couple mesophiles included for the sake of contrast. The microbes represented are: Chloroflexus aurantiacus (the red snake-like thermophilic bacterium represented against the background of a hot spring area), Methanopyrus kandleri (the blue, rod-shaped hyperthermophilic archaea set against the background of hydrothermal vents), Deinococcus radiodurans (a mesophilic bacteria represented by the green tetrad set against the forest background), Acidithiobacillus thiooxidans (a mesophilic bacterium represented by the purple, rod-shaped microbe with the pink flagellum), Psychrobacter arcticus (the blue diploid psychrophilic coccobacillus bacterium with pink spots, which is set against the aquatic background underneath the ice layers), and Planococcus halocryophilus (the blue-green diploid cocci bacterium set against the polar background).


A2: Microbes in the News

Article: 7 Alien ‘Earths’ May Be Swapping Life via Meteorites

Link: National Geographic, Mar 22,

Summary: On Feb 23, NASA reported that they found other solar system about 39 light years away from our solar system, called TRAPPIST-1 and some of planets in TRAPPIST-1 have liquid water. This release gave a shock to the world and someone may think that extraterrestrial life is existing now. According to the new research from Manasvi Lingam and Abraham Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics released on Mar 15 that seven planets in TRAPPIST-1 is condensed around the stellar host so that the seeds of life can jump from one planet to other planet by debris. This research support the theory of panspermia, which maintains the origin of life came from the space to Earth. In TRAPPIST-1, all planets are located close to each other and distance between them is much shorter than the distance between Earth and Mars, so it’s easy to approach to other planets in TRAPPIST-1. Also, three planets out of seven planets may have liquid water and is located in habitable zone, so they think if they have moderate temperature and atmosphere, life can exist there. However, some astronomers are suspicious of this because they think life can’t stand the harsh condition while they are traveling. In the space, there are lots of cosmic rays and they can be exposed for more than million years. In addition, they receive a huge shock when they land on some planets. Though some member in the team says it’s really difficult to survive in the harsh condition, but some organism like extremophiles can overcome it. They don’t find plausible evidence yet, but it is a good chance for us to think about what is panspermia theory and where life come from.

Connection: The idea of ubiquitous is relate to this article. It is also relate to the origin of life(LUCA).

Critical analysis: Discovering of the TRAPPIST-1 was amazing. However, I’m wondering how microbes can jump from one planet to the other. This news said some researchers thinks it’s difficult for some microbes to survive in the space for long time due to UV or cosmic rays. While, other researchers says extremophiles can survive because some has tolerance for UV or heat. I’m suspect for this idea. If microbes can jump to other planet, we can find microbes from meteorites which come to the earth. Inside the meteorites, there are lots of Carbon sources, but their shock when land on some planet or heat can sterile them. However, the distance between one planet to the other is shorter than the distance between the Earth and Mars. Therefore, maybe, if their travel is short, some may survive and land on other planet, but it’s rarely happened.

Question: Why it support panspermia theory? How to jump to other planet from the ocean in the planets in TRAPPIST-1?

A2: Microbes in the News

Article: 60,000-year-old microbes found in Mexican mine: NASA scientist

Link: PHYS,

Summary: The research team from NASA found some microbes which is 60,000-year-old in the Naica mine in Mexico and revived them. Penelope Boston of NASA’s Astrobiology Institute said that in that mine, they found some crystals and inside of that, they found lots of microbes and viruses and they were alive, but they were locked by the crystal. Naika is the mine region and inside the mine, temperature is so high, so those area is extreme environment. When the researchers conducted research, they wore a spacesuit and an ice bag. Then, those microbes and viruses were picked up. They are really different from other well known microbes in terms of genome. It’s 10% difference between them and some microbes which has the closest genome sequence and this difference is like between humans and mushrooms. Those microbes lay dormant in the layer of minerals. Penelope said they adapted to their harsh environment and this discovery is just an one example how organisms in the earth are strong.

Connections: It’s relate to microbial ubiquitous and some extrememophiles.

Critical analysis: This mine is really hot and dark and nutrient are limited, so for almost all of organisms, it’s absolutely extreme environment. However, some microbes and viruses can exist in those environment. I was surprised when I read this article, but I am wondering why genome became different from others due to living inside crystals? This article said they are different like human to mushrooms. However, human and mushrooms are completely different from the shape, complexity, habitat and foods etc and they are microbes, but genome is different at 10%, so I’m confused.

Question: How to survive in the crystal even they can’t move? Why they are totally different from other microbes in terms of genome?

A2: Microbes in the News

Article: Balloon Experiment Reveals Earth Microbe’s Likely Fate on Mars


Summary: To know the limit of what microbes can stand is important for preventing contamination of Mars when our spacecraft arrive. In October 2015, a giant balloon launched to the sky, which is an altitude of 31 kilometers to find microbes which is contaminated and brought by human experiment. Another study found that almost all of bacteria will die within few days by ultraviolet radiation from the sun. David J. Smith of NASA’s Ames Research Center, conducted the experiment ,called the Exposing Microorganism in the Stratosphere(E-MIST), and this experiment brought samples, which is in the phase of endospore from the atmosphere. This result suggests that microbes which stick to a spacecraft to Mars can manage to survive the journey.

Connections: This topic is connected to the idea like “Microbes are everywhere’ even in the atmosphere.

Critical analysis: This article said microbes are dormant or endospores when they are in the atmosphere. However, if they find some microbes, it’s possibly from somewhere in the earth sticked to human made aircraft. Or, if microbes are in dormant or endospores and they are packed by meteorite, the shock is huge when they land on the surface on Mars. Therefore, even they have tolerance for UV, it’s difficult to survive in the space.

Question: How microbes can survive in the space when they are dormant or endospores?

A2: Lack of oxygen not a showstopper for life
ack of oxygen not a showstopper for life April 17, 2017.
Charles Q. Choi

Summary: Scientists sampled organisms from 15 different hot pools to see how many different chemosynthetic communities are thriving in the springs. The team focused on the oxidants present in communities, and worked on nailing down what type of bacteria are in those communities. They found that microaerophiles dominated mainly planktonic communities. This information helps provide a look at what kind of life may have been present in early earth, and if this life may be possibly survive on other planets.

Connections: In class we have talked about how microbes may have lived in an anoxic environment, and how they evolved with earth’s evolving environment. Eric Collin’s lecture gave an insight on how and why microbes should be able to survive on other planets.

Critical analysis: I like this article because I find it fascinating that so much science can be going on in one of the worlds most natural wonders. People visit Yellowstone all year round just to see these hot springs, and it is so interesting to think that these pools of water can offer so much insight on our environments future and past. I find this article to be accurate because we have learned a lot about how and why archaea that can survive in harsh environments, and how that can be an insight into life on other planets.

Question: This team focused on a small amount of microbial communities and were able to come up with plenty of information. Do you think it is even possible to find, analyze, and classify all of the microbes that could be living in just one hot springs?

A2: Microbes in the news

Article Title: Deepest Life on Earth May Be Lurking 6 Miles Beneath Ocean Floor

Author: Thea Ghose

Date: April 11, 2017

Source: Live Science


Assignment author: Morgen Southwood


There are mud volcanoes under the sea floor and they may be inhabited. Biological signatures in material that has risen to the surface could possibly be coming from microbial life 32,800 feet under the surface of the ocean floor. The organic matter are good indicators of the presence of life, but could also have been produced by abiotic processes.


Reading this article reminded me of earlier in the semester when we discussed the origins of life and more recently in the semester when we discussed Bas-Becking’s idea. When we discussed the origins of life near under water vents we discussed the kinds of organic chemicals that could have been precursors for the first life forms, those same compounds were found in these mud deposits. When we discussed that life could/would be everywhere, I considered the presence of life beyond our atmosphere, but not beneath the crust of the earth. This article made me wonder what microbial super power could survive in those conditions.

Critical analysis. —

This article only spends one half of it’s very short article discussing the new discovery. I wish that there had been more details on the discoveries methods. Apparently the compounds came from rocks that were “spewed’ onto the surface, there was no explanation on how the scientists could be sure that any signs of life originated in the mud volcano, and wasn’t the product of contamination as the mud progressed to the surface.

My favorite sentence in this paper isn’t referring to the recent discovery; it’s within a paragraph summarizing other research on deep sub surface microbial life. The sentence reads, “ the deeper that scientists have looked the deeper life has seemed to go.’     I wonder if there is a limit to this, if scientist will one day conclusively say: no more life past this point. The researchers of the under sea mud volcano seem to think so. They made an estimate for the maximum depth that could support life. Considering a maximum temperature of 122 degrees Celsius and 1000x atmospheric pressure, the deepest Achaean environment would be about 32,800 feet below the surface.

This article was presented both scientifically, and in a way that could be digested by an interested member of the general public. Its lack of depth was compensated by links to relevant background information and relevant studies.


Will scientists ever be able to definitively state that an environment/ location is completely free of life without having to clarify “that we know of’?


Newly Discovered Microbes, May Explain the Origin of Complex Life

Source: Mike White of TrendinTech

Date: 13FEB2017


Summary: A team of scientists discovered a new archaeon that could be the closest living relative to eukaryotes.  Four lineages total have been found so far that fall under the Asgardian classification (the name given to these archaea).

Connection: We’ve discussed the lineage of bacteria, archaea, and eukaryotes and how they are similar/different.

Analysis: As far as relating to a crowd unfamiliar with microbiology, I felt this article did a pretty decent job in explaining some background.  They for instance give a brief description of Earth and how early Earth did not have eukaryotes, and then go into how they are and could be related.  They also hypothesize that these Asgardians are a possible precursor of sorts to eukaryotes. They even provide a picture demonstrating this.  It was also interesting to note that these archaea have been found all over the world, not just in a single localized area.

Question: The article did not go into great detail, but it made me curious as to what exactly these archaea in particular have in common with eukaryotes.


A2: Microbes in the News Assignment

Microbes in the News !

Over the course of the semester, post 3 different stories involving microbes  from the popular media and then read and comment on 3  posts by other students.


Points: Total possible = 30 points. Earn up to 8 pts for making a post and 2 points for posting a comment. Create 3 posts and 3 comments over the course of the semester.

Deadline: All posts and comments must be made by April 24 to receive credit.


Learning Objectives:

– Increase your awareness of microbiology and its role in society

– Expand and apply your knowledge of microbiology

– Practice critical thinking by analyzing popular news media for scientific accuracy

– Develop questions about microbiology

– Help your peers and yourself understand microbiology by answering their questions



Over the course of the semester, create 3 separate Microbes in the News posts on the course website, and then read and comment on 3 Microbes in the News posts by other students. Be sure to follow the guidelines below in order to qualify for  full credit.


Guidelines for creating a post:

Article and link: Enter the title, source, and date of the article and create a link to it. Articles should be from any popular media source (newspaper, magazine, podcast, blog,  etc.) that others can access without hitting a paywall. Any relevant story is acceptable, but challenge yourself to find stories that are current (~within the last 3 months) and that haven’t yet been posted by your peers, whenever possible.

Summary: Write a short summary of the story (just a few sentences is sufficient).

Connections: Explain briefly how this connects to what we’ve covered in class.

Critical analysis: Explain what you found interesting about this story, and what (if anything) you learned. Comment on whether you think the story was scientifically accurate or not. If you noticed any factual inaccuracies or aspects of the story that might inadvertently confuse or misinform readers, identify those and provide a more accurate explanation. Also comment on how this was written. Do you think it did a good job of communicating science to the public? Why or why not?

Question: Write a question about microbiology that you had as a result of reading this story.

Categorize: Categorize your post as “A2: Microbes in the News’ using the categories menu on the right. This will ensure I can find it and give you credit.

Tag: Tag your post based on any relevant microbiological themes by choosing from the tag menu (below categories on the right). Use existing tags when possible, but you can add new ones if needed by clicking “+Add New Category’ link just below the list of tags. This will help us find stories on relevant themes. You can also use these tags to search for other students’ stories on themes that interest you.

Guidelines for commenting on a post:

– Read the news story and the students’ post about it

– Create a comment and write a response to their critical analysis. Do you agree, disagree, or have more to add?

– In your comment, answer their question to the best of your ability. This might require some independent research.