Microbes in weird places: what life is like deep in the Earth

ORION meets on the third Wednesday of every month.  Our meeting will be held at Roane State Community College in Oak Ridge, TN in the Goff Building, room 104 (just off of the lobby).  We gather at 7:00 with the program beginning at approximately 7:15 p.m.  You do not have to be a scientist to attend, or even a member of ORION.  The program is free and open to the public.   

Our next meeting will be held on Wednesday May 16, 2018.  Dr. Karen Lloyd, Assistant Professor for the department of microbiology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville will be our speaker.


We do not currently know how deep life extends into Earth’s crust. A major discovery in the past few decades has been that microbial life is abundant and diverse deep into sediments and crust underneath the world’s oceans. In addition, deeply-sourced fluids, which are often harshly acidic, basic, or hot, bubble up from the deep subsurface and bring with them many different kinds of microorganisms as well. Microbiologists have two strategies to learn about these microbes: 1) the traditional way where microbes are grown on petri dishes or in test tubes, and 2) the new way where natural samples are analyzed with the tools of molecular biology. The traditional way has given a great leaping-off point for such studies, but the new techniques have shown us that the vast majority of microbial life on Earth has yet to be discovered. I will talk about new discoveries we have made in my lab by applying these new techniques to deep subsurface sediments near the Mariana Trench, hot springs and the inside of volcanoes in Central America, and cold extremophiles at 79°N in the Arctic.



Dr. Karen Lloyd

Karen G. Lloyd applies molecular biological techniques to environmental samples to learn more about microbes that have thus far evaded attempts to be cultured in a laboratory. She has adapted novel techniques to quantify and characterize these mysterious microbes while requiring minimal changes to their natural conditions. Her work centers on deep oceanic subsurface sediments, deep-sea mud volcanoes and cold seeps, terrestrial volcanoes and hot springs, serpentinizing springs, Arctic marine fjord sediments, and ancient permafrost. She is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Tennessee, http://lloydlab.utk.edu/.