The Great Desert

SODA DAM MICROBIOLOGY

On Saturday, we took a microscope view of the bacterial mats and slimy stuff we collected at the Soda Dam hot spring along NM state road 4. You can learn more about hot-spring microbiology in the book Life at High Temperatures by Dr. Thomas D. Brock, and at Dr. Garcia-Pichel's lab's web site. Another great resource for teaching microbiology is The Microbe Zoo.
 
In theory, combining field study of the hot spring mats with laboratory investigation re-enforce learning and provide strong connections between the natural world and the lab setting. Ideally, we should have all had our own microscopes! Perhaps your school permits this.
 

Crust
 
Ant Hill

Microscope image of a white filament from near the vent of the Soda Dam hot spring. The filament itself is nearly invisible, but its surface is decorated with black dots. The filaments are of a sulfide-oxidizing bacterium (possibly Thiothrix). The dark spots are sulfur, the waste product of its metabolism. Credit.
 
Microscope image of cells from the bright green mats just outside the hot spring vent. These are probably Synechococcus, a very common green alga. Credit.
     
green zygo
 
more green zygo

Low-magnification of bright green slimy mats, associated with the Synechococcus above. These fibers are a species of the common green alga Oscillatoria. Credit.
 
Closeup of these tendrils of green Oscillatoria. Credit.
     
zygo mat
 
zygo fiber

The blackish-green mats at the cold water provided these samples, of the green alga Oscillatoria terebriformis, which is common worldwide in hot spring waters of near-neutral pH. Credit.
 
Closeup of the Oscillatoria tendrils. These were moving as we watched them, and eventually wound themselves up into a ball. The bright dots in the fibers are either vacuoles (bubbles) or starch particles (stored food). In this slightly enhanced close-up image, you can see the cells' walls and green chloroplasts (unannotated image). Credit.

To the Soda Dam  | Back to Workshop Index
Back to "The Great Desert"
LPI home page | LPI Education Resources Page
Copyright Allan Treiman, LPI.
Updated 11/21/03.
Comments to webmaster@lpi.usra.edu.