Lab scientists tinker with microbes to battle climate change
By Suzanne Bohan
Contra Costa Times Contra Costa Times
Posted: 05/06/2011 04:51:11 PM PDT
Updated: 05/06/2011 04:51:11 PM PDT
Microbes will take center stage next week as the unusual protagonists in a free talk with local scientists tackling climate change.
The one-celled creatures are now part of a major research initiative at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory to explore ways to recapture more of the 6 billion tons of heat-trapping carbon dioxide human activities generate annually
The researchers, who will speak Monday evening at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, are working with the Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, a federal facility for genetic sequencing of microbes and other life-forms.
The terrestrial ecosystem, meaning everything on land — from plants to soil and other geological features — absorbs about one-third of atmospheric carbon. Much of the credit goes to microbes, said Donald DePaolo, an associate lab director who heads the Berkeley Lab’s Carbon Cycle 2.0 initiative.
“Microbes are doing a huge job of taking carbon out of the atmosphere,” DePaolo said. But how microbes, usually bacteria, do their work is still largely a mystery, he said.
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