Department of Microbiology News

Professor Discovers How Microbes Survive at Bare Minimum

Image of archaea. Image Courtesy: Richard Kevorkian, University of Tennessee.

Beneath the ocean floor is a desolate place with no oxygen and sunlight. Yet microbes have thrived in this environment for millions of years. A study led by Karen Lloyd, an assistant professor of microbiology, reveals that these microscopic life-forms called archaea slowly eat tiny bits of protein. The study was released today in Nature.

The New York Times: Deep Under Antarctica, Looking for Signs of Life

A project involving Jill Mikucki, assistant professor of microbiology, was featured in The New York Times. It seeks to find evidence of life in a lake deep under the Antarctic ice as well as understanding the role subglacial lakes in stabilizing or destabilizing the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Science Omega: Unexpected numbers of microbes are fighting nitrous oxide

Frank Loeffler, UT-ORNL Governor’s Chair for Microbiology, was featured in Science-Omega for his research involving nitrous oxide. Loeffler and his international team has discovered that the range of microorganisms which combat the greenhouse gas is broader than expected.

UT Study: Unexpected Microbes Fighting Harmful Greenhouse Gas

The environment has a more formidable opponent than carbon dioxide. Another greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide, is 300 times more potent and also destroys the ozone layer each time it is released into the atmosphere. Luckily, nature has a larger army than previously thought combating this greenhouse gas—according to a study by Frank Loeffler, Governor’s Chair for Microbiology, and his colleagues.

Team Receives NSF Support to Study Toxic Water in China

Blue-green alga blooms in Lake Taihu

More than 12 million Chinese rely on Lake Taihu for drinking water but about twenty years ago the once pristine lake turned pea green. It had become overrun with toxic blue-green algae which can damage the liver, intestines and nervous system. Two UT researchers will be working on an international team funded by two new National Science Foundation awards totaling $2.5 million to resolve the ecosystem balance in the lake.

UT Professor’s Hypothesis May be Game Changer for Evolutionary Theory

A new hypothesis posed by Associate Professor Erik Zinser and colleagues could be a game changer in the evolution arena. The hypothesis suggests some species are surviving by discarding genes and depending on other species to play their hand. The groundbreaking “Black Queen Hypothesis” got its name from the game of Hearts.