Sunday, February 19, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
Jamie Lehnen, University of Houston, Houston, TX
The frontier of upper atmospheric microbial research has recently opened up due to advancements in electronic miniaturization, allowing experiments to be done with smaller, less expensive payloads. As of yet, very little is known about the concentration or composition of life in the upper atmosphere, making it a field in great need of scientific advancement. Experiments in the past have tried everything from active pumps to passive filtering mechanisms to collect microbes from the stratosphere but with very few success due to issues with contamination and mechanical design. With funding from NASA and the University of Houston, this group from the University of Houston will attempt to construct an efficient, cost-effective instrument capable of collecting stratospheric microbes with minimal contamination. With an improved sterilization protocol and a novel collection mechanism, this group will eventually fly using a balloon-borne payload in Fairbanks, Alaska in March 2017. A successful experiment will provide new information to both atmospheric scientists and biologists alike. Being able to collect stratospheric microbes will allow atmospheric scientists to better understand how these organisms contribute to the stratosphere and will help them characterize microbial population of the atmosphere. Collection of stratospheric microbes will also also allow microbiologists to better study UV-radiation resistance and the application of atmospheric bacteria to biofilms and microbial fuel cells. A successful experiment can even give us more information on the origination of life in the upper atmosphere.