Serpentinization is a common process that is extremely important for transporting water towards the mantle and for fixing large amounts of carbon as carbonate rocks. The Cedars Peridotite is a site in Northern California where active serpentinization occurs, resulting in spring waters that are so extreme that no current paradigms of microbial metabolism are compatible with life growing there. The work is aimed at understanding how microbes manage to eke out a living in this extreme ecosystem with ultrabasic (pH ≈ 12) water, among other conditions. Identifying and characterizing the resident microbes and the metabolic approaches they utilize may allow researchers to form an understanding for just how microbes (individuals and/or syntrophic groups) can exploit an environment that appears, at first glance, to be impossibly inhospitable.
Proposer’s Name: Kenneth H. Nealson