Scientist honored for developing techniques to explore relationships among,,members of complex microbial communities

Dr. David A. Stahl, professor of civil engineering at Northwestern University, will be honored for his influential contributions to the fields of microbial evolution and environmental microbiology with the 20th annual Bergey Award. It will be presented at the American Society for Microbiology Conference on Microbial Biodiversity honoring the Centennial of ASM's founding, Aug. 5, in Chicago, Ill.

The Bergey Award is given by the Bergey's Manual Trust to honor an individual who has made outstanding contributions to bacterial taxonomy. The Bergey's Manual is one of the most widely used references for bacterial taxonomy.

Dr. Stahl and his colleagues were the first to use a technique of molecular biology that involves short pieces of single-stranded DNA tagged with fluorescent labels to analyze spatial relationships among different bacteria in complex biofilms, or bacterial communities. Largely as a result of Dr. Stahl's ideas, scientists can now analyze and understand the structure of complex microbial communities without having to first cultivate bacteria in a lab, which is often difficult.

Such applications of the tools of molecular biology have revised scientists' notions of the actual enormous diversity of microbial species; most now acknowledge that only 1 percent to 10 percent of all microbes have yet been identified.

Dr. Stahl earned his master's and doctorate degrees at the University of Illinois, Chicago, under the direction of Dr. Carl Woese, a microbiologist renowned for first proposing that certain microorganisms called archaea be classified independently as a new category of life, and a previous Bergey Award recipient.

Dr. Stahl elected to receive his award at the ASM Conference on Microbial Biodiversity, which will bring together scientists from disparate backgrounds to address issues of microbial diversity, an emerging hot topic in life science research. The increasing importance of microbial diversity is spurred by multiple emergi

Contact: Christine Stencel
American Society for Microbiology

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