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Biological Sciences Division

October 2016

Fredrickson on the “Chemistry of Microbiomes” Seminars

Jim Fredrickson

Microbes make up most of the planet's biomass, living in collaborative communities called microbiomes, which thrive on land, at sea, and within ourselves. They catalyze chemical reactions affecting the health of the Earth's ecosystem and of every human. But many mysteries remain for scientists studying these little worlds of large import.

"The Chemistry of Microbiomes" will help. PNNL geomicrobiologist and Laboratory Fellow Jim Fredrickson said the next seminar in the series will be webcast from 2 to 5 p.m. (ET) Wednesday Oct. 19 in Washington, D.C and will focus on the microbiome of marine habitats. It is the second of four seminars sponsored this fall by the Chemical Sciences Roundtable at the National Academy of Sciences and by the Department of Energy. (On the roundtable board is Allison Campbell, Associate Laboratory Director for Earth and Biological Sciences at PNNL.)

Fredrickson is on the planning committee and is one of three chairs in the series. In September, he oversaw the first seminar, on the terrestrial microbiome. This "expansive and diverse" habitat for microbes, Fredrickson explained to a combined audience of 180, includes niches within the Earth's crust, in soils, and in terrestrial-aquatic interfaces - "very special regions," he said, and "very important factors for sustaining the environment."

Importantly, there are also the Earth's little appreciated subsurface terrestrial microbial habitat, Fredrickson said, where there is "more biomass beneath our feet than exists collectively on the rest of the planet." His remarks, along with three other expert presentations, were captured on video.

Following the Nov. 9 seminar (on the human microbiome), Fredrickson will speak at an all-microbiome final seminar on Dec. 7. A proceedings on the whole series, he said, will be published "sometime after the first of the year."

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