“The subsurface of earth is literally teeming with microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses and stygofauna, all of which have important roles for the ecological health of the earth."
"It is pretty important that we understand what they are doing down there” says Murray Close, who organised a recent conference to bring together the world’s top subsurface microbiologists, ecologists and geoscientists.
The conference, held in Rotorua, involved four days of fascinating presentations and four keynote speakers. The talks centred around top experts in their field describing life below the surface and how subsurface microbiology functions and thrives and provides important ecosystem services to those organisms that live on the surface.
“As one of the keynote speakers said to me, that while there are one hundred billion (1011) stars in our galaxy – there are one nonillion (1030) micro-organisms that live on the earth. The health of that which lives underground can determine the health of those of us above ground,” said Close.
Key note speakers included John Spear, a microbial ecologist from the Colorado School of Mines who spoke about the accessible deep hot biosphere; Tom Curtis, Professor of Environmental Engineering at Newcastle University, UK whose interest is in the belief that real open microbial systems obey universal rules; Annette Engel, the Jones Professor of Aqueous Geochemistry from the University of Tennessee, who spoke of the importance of the subsurface for its inherent ecological and societal value and how destroying sub-surfaces, through exploitation and other human activities can destroy the very environments we need to survive; and finally Gene Tyson, Deputy Director, Australian Centre for Ecogenomics, University of Queensland presenting his research on applying metagenomic techniques to the complexity of the microbial communities under the ground.
The conference was run by the International Society for Subsurface Microbiology - a unique group made up of microbiologists, ecologists, geoscientists, and other researchers and students around the world who are captivated with the various aspects of subsurface microbiology, a rapidly expanding field that focuses on microbial life below the surface of the earth."