The author is ScIU guest writer Emmi Mueller, a graduate student in IU’s Department of Biology.
What do the deepest parts of the ocean, the human intestine, and outer space have in common? All of these environments are able to harbor a diverse community of microorganisms. Microbes are involved in everything from nitrogen and carbon cycling to amino acids synthesis for other organisms. Because of the important processes they undertake, microbes are integral to ecosystems. However, not all ecosystems are perfectly matched for microbial growth. So how do microbes survive when they encounter harsh conditions?
One method microorganisms use is dormancy — the ability to produce a metabolically inactive state during less-than-optimal growth conditions. Think “hibernation mode” for microbes. An estimated 60% of earth’s microbial biomass exists in some form of dormant state. The Lennon Lab in the Department of Biology at IU is interested in studying how dormancy helps microbes survive harsh conditions through the lens of both ecology and evolution. (more…)