Whether the microorganisms routinely inhabit the upper troposphere -- perhaps living on carbon compounds also found there -- or whether they were simply lofted there from the Earth's surface isn't yet known. Airborne microbes are of interest to atmospheric scientists, because they could play a role in forming ice that may impact weather and climate, and long-distance transport of the bacteria could also be of interest for disease transmission models. Participants will discuss their research characterizing the bacteria present at different altitudes in the troposphere and genetic mechanisms by which microbial cells could reach and remain at high altitudes in the atmosphere and initiate the formation of water droplets or ice crystals, which is important for cloud formation.
Natasha De Leon-Rodriguez, School of Biology, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, United States
Kostas Konstantinidis, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA, United States
Amy Vollmer, Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, PA, United States