Halloween spirit brings intraterrestrials, microbes, SLIME to BLM Brown bag lecture

stock image | St. George News

ST. GEORGE—Diana Northrup will be sharing a fascinating journey exploring the subsurface to hunt for novel microbes in the caves of the Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument in a lunchtime lecture Friday at the Interagency Information Center, 345 E. Riverside Drive in St. George.

Northrup’s hunt for intraterrestrials in these caves has revealed microbes that break down debris entering the caves. Other microbes “eat rock” such as copper and other minerals found in the walls of some of the caves and some can cycle nitrogen.

Imaging tiny samples from the caves shows an interesting community of shapes including filaments, beads-on-a-string, and extensive biofilms that arrange themselves in patterns that look like artwork. Northrup’s talk will be illustrated with many of her husband’s award-winning photos of caves and science-in-action in the subsurface of Parashant.

With a doctorate in biology from the University of New Mexico, Northrup has been studying things that live in caves since 1984. As a professor emeritus and a visiting associate professor in the Department of Biology at the University of Mexico she is actively researching cave geomicrobiology using geochemical, molecular and microscopy techniques.

Among her many research projects, Northrup and her colleagues on the Subsurface Life in Mineral Environments, or SLIME, Team, are also currently investigating, first, how microbes help form the colorful ferromanganese deposits that coat the walls of Lechuguilla and Spider Cave in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, second, how microbes participate in the precipitation of calcium carbonate formations called pool fingers and finally, the microbial diversity located in the hydrogen sulfide cave, Cueva de las Sardinas in Tabasco, Mexico and lava caves in the Azores, Hawaii, New Mexico and California.

Northurp’s work has been featured on NOVA, CNN, Discovery Channel and National Geographic. She has also been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was recently awarded the Science Award by the National Speleological Society.

Every Friday, the Bureau of Land Management and its partners host the popular Brown Bag Lecture series which provides unique opportunities for members of the public to learn more about the area’s natural resources and public lands.   The lectures, which begin at noon and last one hour, are held at the Interagency Information Center, located at 345 E. Riverside Drive in St. George, Utah.

Admission is free, but space is limited for this popular lecture series.  To obtain tickets visit the Interagency Information Center or call 435-688-3200 for more information on obtaining tickets.  The lecture series is sponsored by the Dixie/Arizona Strip Interpretive Association, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service.

Event details and resources

  • What: Presentation by Diana Northrup
  • When: Oct. 24, at noon
  • Where: Interagency Information Center, located at 345 E. Riverside Drive in St. George, Utah.
  • To obtain free tickets, visit the Interagency Information Center or call 435-688-3200

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