How microbial communities thrive in hydraulically fractured shale wells | 1/11/2019 | Staff
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In survival game shows, contestants are whisked away to a foreign location, where they face unfamiliar stresses. To stay in the game, they must adapt to the surroundings and often need to work together with fellow competitors.

As it turns out, the same is true on the microscopic level for microbes, such as bacteria and viruses, residing in fluids from hydraulic fracturing or fracking processes. The conditions in these deep underground environments are so constrained scientists didn't think life could survive there, let alone thrive.

Years - Team - Researchers - Worlds - Team

But a few years ago, a small team of researchers began looking closely at these engineered worlds. The team's findings are not only surprising, but also informative to the fracking industry. Such worlds could even be considered as a model system for understanding how microbial community members interact within their ecosystems.

Some of the research team's work is part of a 2015 Facilities Integrating Collaborations for User Science, or FICUS, project called "Microbial Controls on Biogeochemical Cycling in Deep Subsurface Shale Carbon Reservoirs" led by researchers then at The Ohio State University.

FICUS - Initiative - Effort - Department - Energy

The FICUS initiative resulted from a collaborative effort between two Department of Energy Office of Science user facilities: the Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory, or EMSL, located at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Wash., and the Joint Genome Institute, or JGI, in Walnut Creek, Calif., managed by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The multidisciplinary team also includes researchers from Colorado State University (CSU), the University of New Hampshire, West Virginia University, and The University of Maine. Since the initial proposal, the researchers have shifted their direction as the science takes them along, publishing a handful of high-profile papers.

System - Team - Member - David - Hoyt

"It's a novel system," says team member David Hoyt, a biochemist at EMSL. "And the nice thing about this particular set-up is that for the microbes that do survive this harsh...
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