Posts tagged consulting
A team led by the University of Colorado Boulder looking for organisms that eke out a living in some of the most inhospitable soils on Earth has found a hardy few.
A new DNA analysis of rocky soils in the Martian-like landscape on some volcanoes in South America has revealed a handful of bacteria, fungi and other rudimentary organisms called archaea, which seem to have a different way of converting energy than their cousins elsewhere in the world.
“We haven’t formally identified or characterized the species,” said Ryan Lynch, a CU-Boulder doctoral student involved in the study. “But these are very different than anything else that has been cultured. Genetically, they’re at least 5 percent different than anything else in the DNA database of 2.5 million sequences.”
Life gets little encouragement on the incredibly dry slopes of the tallest volcanoes in the Atacama region, where CU-Boulder Professor Steve Schmidt and his team collected soil samples. Much of the sparse snow that falls on the terrain sublimates back to the atmosphere soon after it hits the ground, and the soil is so depleted of nutrients that nitrogen levels in the scientists’ samples were below detection limits.
One of the most hostile environments on the planet
Ultraviolet radiation in the high-altitude environment can be twice as intense as in a low-elevation desert, said Schmidt of CU-Boulder’s ecology and evolutionary biology department. While the researchers were on site, temperatures dropped to 14 degrees Fahrenheit one night and spiked to 133 F the next day.
How the newfound organisms survive under such circumstances remains a mystery. Although Ryan, Schmidt and their colleagues looked for genes known to be involved in photosynthesis and peered into the cells using fluorescent techniques to look for chlorophyll, they couldn’t find evidence that the microbes were photosynthetic.
Instead, they think the microbes might slowly generate energy by means of chemical reactions that extract energy and carbon from wisps of gases such as carbon monoxide and dimethylsulfide that blow into the desolate mountain area. The process wouldn’t give the bugs a high-energy yield, Lynch said, but it could be enough as it adds up over time. A paper on the findings has been accepted by the Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, published by the American Geophysical Union.
While normal soil has thousands of microbial species in just a gram of soil, and garden soils even more, remarkably few species have made their home in the barren Atacama mountain soil, the new research suggests. “To find a community dominated by less than 20 species is pretty amazing for a soil microbiologist,” Schmidt said.
Nearly 20,000 feet in altitude, snowless for 48,000 years
He has studied sites in the Peruvian Andes where, four years after a glacier retreats, there are thriving, diverse microbe communities. But on these volcanoes on the Chile-Argentina border, which rise to altitudes of more than 19,685 feet and which have been ice-free for 48,000 years, the bacterial and fungal ecosystems have not undergone succession to more diverse communities. “It’s mostly due to the lack of water, we think,” he said. “Without water, you’re not going to develop a complex community.”
“Overall, there was a good bit lower diversity in the Atacama samples than you would find in most soils, including other mountainous mineral soils,” Lynch said. That makes the Atacama microbes very unusual, he added. They probably had to adapt to the extremely harsh environment, or may have evolved in different directions than similar organisms elsewhere due to long-term geographic isolation.
Growth on the mountain might be intermittent, Schmidt suggested, especially if soils only have water for a short time after snowfall. In those situations, there could be microbes that grow when it snows, then fall dormant, perhaps for years, before they grow again. High-elevation sites are great places to study simple microbial communities, ecosystems that haven’t evolved past the very basics of a few bacteria and fungi, Schmidt said.
“There are a lot of areas in the world that haven’t been studied from a microbial perspective, and this is one of the main ones,” he said. “We’re interested in discovering new forms of life, and describing what those organisms are doing, how they make a living.”
Schmidt’s lab, along with others, is studying how microorganisms travel from one site to another. One common method of microbe transport is through the air — they’re caught up in winds, sucked up into clouds, form rain droplets and then fall back to the ground somewhere else as precipitation.
But on mountains like Volcán Llullaillaco and Volcán Socompa, the high UV radiation and extreme temperatures make the landscape inhospitable to outside microbes. “This environment is so restrictive, most of those things that are raining down are killed immediately,” Schmidt said. “There’s a huge environmental filter here that’s keeping most of these things from growing.”
The next steps for the researchers are laboratory experiments using an incubator that can mimic the extreme temperature fluctuations to better understand how any organism can live in such an unfriendly environment. Studying the microbes and finding out how they can live at such an extreme can help set boundaries for life on Earth, Schmidt said, and tells scientists what life can stand. There’s a possibility that some of the extremophiles might utilize completely new forms of metabolism, converting energy in a novel way.
Schmidt also is working with astrobiologists to model what past conditions were like on Mars. With their rocky terrain, thin atmosphere and high radiation, the Atacama volcanoes are some of the most similar places on Earth to the Red Planet.
“If we know, on Earth, what the outer limits for life were, and they know what the paleoclimates on Mars were like, we may have a better idea of what could have lived there,” he said.
Other paper authors included Andrew King of Ecosystem Sciences, CSIRO Black Mountain in Acton, Australia; Mariá Farías of Laboratorio de Investigaciones Microbiologicas de Lagunas Andinas, Planto Piloto de Procesos Industriales Microbiologicas, CCT, CONICET in Tucuman, Argentina; Preston Sowell of Geomega, an environmental consulting firm in Boulder; and Christian Vitry of Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montana in Salta, Argentina.
The Virginia Patterson Businessperson of the Year The recipient of this award has consistently contributed business expertise and experiences to connect the Boulder business world to city, charitable, or other public-spirited causes and is a leader in making Boulder a better place to do business.
Brad has been an early stage investor and entrepreneur for over twenty years. Prior to co-founding Foundry Group, he co-founded Mobius Venture Capital and, prior to that, founded Intensity Ventures, a company that helped launch and operate software companies. Brad is also a co-founder of TechStars.
Brad currently serves on the board of directors of BigDoor Media, Cheezburger Networks, Fitbit, Gnip, MakerBot Oblong, Orbotix, and Standing Cloud for Foundry Group. Previously, Brad served as chief technology officer of AmeriData Technologies. AmeriData acquired Feld Technologies, a firm he founded in 1987 that specialized in custom software applications. Brad had grown Feld Technologies into one of Boston’s leading software consulting firms prior to the acquisition. He also directed the diversification into software consulting at AmeriData, a $1.5 billion publicly-traded company which was acquired by GE Capital in 1995.
In addition to his investing efforts, Brad has been active with several non-profit organizations and currently is chair of the National Center for Women & Information Technology, co-chair of Startup Colorado, and on the board of Startup Weekend. Brad is a nationally recognized speaker on the topics of venture capital investing and entrepreneurship and writes the widely read blogs Feld Thoughts and Ask the VC.
Key Contributor of the Year
This award recognizes an individual who has made a positive impact on the community through leadership and a significant contribution of time, talent and expertise. Bob Noun
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
Robert J. Noun formerly directed the government affairs, media relations, communications and community outreach activities for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) located in Golden, CO. He was the chief spokesman for NREL, the nation’s principal research center for renewable fuels and electricity. Mr. Noun has been involved with renewable energy for over 30 years. During his career he has made significant contributions to the advancement of renewable energy technologies.
Noun managed the NREL Wind Energy Research Program. He is the author of 24 technical publications on the subjects of renewable energy law and regulation, wind energy development, and renewable energy in developing countries. From 2010-2012 Noun served as Chair of CO-LABS, the confederation of national labs and research universities in Colorado doing federally sponsored science and technology innovation.
Noun has received numerous awards and recognition, including the 2005 Van Morris Award recognizing his leadership in the growth and development of NREL, the 2002 Pioneer Award for Contributions to the Development of Renewable Energy from the World Renewable Energy Network in London, and the 1996 Gold Medallion Award for the Advancement of Renewable Energy, presented by His Highness, the Emir of Bahrain. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law and has been a guest lecturer in the Iowa State University Science and Technology Lecture Series. In 1973 he was awarded the Reginald Hebersmith Fellow in Law from Howard University.
Community Sustainability Leader
This award recognizes an organization that demonstrates success at managing an integrated triple bottom line – economic success, commitment to social equity and concern for environmental footprint.
Boulder Community Hospital
Boulder Community Hospital is a coordinated network of facilities and skilled personnel providing an expansive range of medical services to people and businesses in Boulder and Broomfield Counties.
As a locally owned and operated non-profit hospital system, Boulder Community is dedicated to meeting the constantly evolving health care needs of local citizens. Boulder Community is known across Colorado for its clinical excellence in heart care, neurosurgery, stroke care, orthopedics and cancer care. Some 600 physicians in 54 medical specialties have privileges at BCH.
Best Place to Work
Awarded to a company that demonstrates proficiency in leadership, communication, respect and alignment.
Gnip is a local social media data startup that believes that no single company alone can realize the full potential of social media data. It works to align itself with others to more effectively harness and channel the power of this information. From its corporate values to the accomplishments of its employees, the company embodies the qualities of leadership, communication, respect, and alignment. Well-regarded by their professional colleagues, company executives regularly deliver keynote addresses to national and international audiences, just as Gnip’s software engineers share their knowledge with the local community. Committed to diversity, the company is a member of the National Center for Women & Information Technology’s Entrepreneurial Alliance program, an effort to increase the participation of women in technological innovation. In these ways, Gnip both provides leadership to the industry and shares its collective expertise in the area of social media data.
Gnip is a company built on respect, and all of its corporate policies are aligned with its values. The company is an employer that seeks out the brightest lights in the field and then supports their continued growth. The respect, trust, and support invested by Gnip in its employees, along with its spirit of collaboration and innovation, have earned it this year’s Chamber award for Boulder’s best place to work.
Boulder 2140 Young Business Person of the Year
This award recognizes a member under the age of forty who has an impact on his/her organization, demonstrated significant contribution of time or talent to the Boulder area and shows potential for future leadership.
Intercambio: Uniting Communities
Lee is co-founder of Intercambio and author of “What Every Immigrant Needs to Know“, a publication that is being used by 35,000 people from 350 organizations nationwide. Lee has helped Intercambio spread its model to 12 states, raise $4,000,000, train 3,500 volunteer teachers, and provide English classes to 8,000 immigrant adults since its inception in 2001. Lee’s prior experience includes the development of a volunteer program at a psychiatric treatment center, supervising of an afterschool program, mentoring developmentally challenged individuals and facilitating writing workshops for prison inmates.
Lee also has an impressive collection of interesting outfits, he loves choreographing crazy shows, and since 2008 he has been volunteering twice a week to teach multicultural dance exercise classes to encourage fun and health.
Members of Distinction
John Regur Dutch Creek Financial
John is founder and Principal of Dutch Creek Financial Services, a financial planning and investment advisory practice. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, after serving overseas with the US Army, his career in financial risk management started with the Travelers Insurance Companies. With a subsequent 25 year career with the Marsh McLennan Companies which included several US and international postings, he moved to Boulder, opening Dutch Creek in 2002, the year he joined the Chamber.
Since 1994 Indra’s Net has offered Colorado a complete set of Internet services, including all levels of access (DSL / T1 / MOE / WiFi / ISDN / dialup), web site hosting, enterprise-class server colocation, and web development. We place a strong emphasis on customer service and specialize in creating custom Internet solutions for Front Range businesses. We are also deeply committed to our community and actively support local business organizations and charities in the Denver-Boulder region.
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