Earth's Subsurface Biosphere:
News about the program:
The biosphere is usually thought of as plants and animals near the Earth's surface, but the Earth's habitable zone extends to depths of hundreds or thousands of meters.
The Earth's subsurface biosphere is composed mostly of bacteria, and collectively these bacteria may have a mass equivalent to that of all life in the near-surface biosphere. The emerging, interdisciplinary study of the subsurface biosphere could solve major environmental, agricultural, and industrial problems, and lead to products that will improve human health and prosperity.
The key to success in this field will be to understand the links between subsurface microbiology and Earth's physical and chemical environment and processes. Scientists with this understanding will solve problems such as:
To prepare graduate students for these challenges we will coordinate the mentoring of students by internationally recognized engineers, microbiologists, geologists, oceanographers, geochemists, soil scientists, and hydrologists.
Students' preparation will be broadened with a new subsurface biosphere integrated minor with five related components. Some of these are:
Ethical and cultural issues related to subsurface science, bioengineering, and the environment will be included in courses, seminars and workshops.