Research

Microbial biogeography

Amplifying bioreactor

Life is almost ubiquitous on Earth: organisms live wherever there is liquid water. However, whether all types of micro-organisms can be found everywhere is a longstanding debate. Microbes must be put on the map!

Because adaptation to extreme environments requires the development of novel specialised capacities not found in other organisms, organisms that can grow in extremes conditions could be expected to be confined to extreme environments and are ideal model organisms for the study of microbial biogeography.

Lake Hertel in which organisms that can thrive in extreme conditions were found. Photo credit: Gault Nature Reserve of McGill University – DIZI Films inc.

Lake Hertel

Using amplifying bioreactors, we have found that a normal freshwater lake (Lake Hertel) contains organisms capable of thriving in extreme conditions.

If all types of microorganisms are indeed ubiquitous the next breakthrough in biotechnology might come through isolating organisms from a backyard pond rather than by searching in exotic extreme environments or from complex synthetic biology.