Scientist Tullis Onstott of Princeton University will speak on subsurface microbial communities that live deep within the gold mines of South Africa at the National Science Foundation (NSF) on April 24. In these mines, adjacent to gold deposits, microorganisms live in water circulating through fissures in the earth's crust more than three kilometers deep. At the bottom of the mines, atmospheric pressure is double that of the surface, and temperatures reach some 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Scientists have identified microbial communities in various crustal environments down to 2,800 meters below the surface. Only a very few samples of deep-living microbes in continental (non-oceanic) crust exist, however, because coring is expensive. The gold mines of South Africa provide a unique opportunity to study microbes at depths ranging from 2,000 to 3,500 meters below the surface.
Onstott will discuss recent discoveries and plans for the future. Onstott's research is funded by NSF's Life in Extreme Environments (LExEn) program.
Who: Scientist Tullis Onstott, Princeton University
What: Lecture on microbes in South African gold mines -- how do they survive?
When: 10:00 a.m., Tuesday, April 24, 2001
Where: NSF headquarters, Room 110, Arlington, Virginia (Ballston Metro stop)