WMU News

Scientists discuss amazing abilities of bacteria

Sept. 24, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- They make sourdough bread "sour" and are responsible for the tartness of yogurt. They're also among the most versatile, and sometimes deadly organisms on the planet, and the focus of an upcoming conference at Western Michigan University.

"Bacteria can thrive under the most extreme conditions, such as the deep freeze of Antarctica, in metal-polluted environments or in caves spewing deadly sulfur gases," says Dr. Silvia Rossbach, associate professor of biological sciences and conference organizer.

"Life in Extreme Environments," a conference of the Michigan Branch for the American Society of Microbiology will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4 at the Fetzer Center on the WMU campus.

"All three of our scheduled speakers are renowned microbiologists," says Rossbach. "They will present their first-hand experiences with organisms that can colonize in the most inhospitable environments."

The lectures scheduled for the conference include:

"Snotties, Phlegmballs, and Deadly Gases Oh My! The Microbial Ecology of Sulfur Caves," presented by Dr. Diana Northup, associate professor of biology at the University of New Mexico;

"A Postcard from Antarctica: Bacteria and the Ozone Hole," presented by Dr. Robert V. Miller, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at Oklahoma State University; and

"Bacterial Mineral Interactions," presented by Dr. Gordon G. Southam, associate professor and Canada Research Chair in Geomicrobiology at the University of Western Ontario.

The cost of attending the conference is $5 for students, which includes a one-year membership to the Michigan Branch of the American Society for Microbiology, and $25 for non-students.

Additional information about the conference can be accessed at <www.mi-asm.org>.

Media contact: Matt Gerard, 616 387-8400, matthew.gerard@wmich.edu

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