Biologist to address importance of microscopic life

While many may credit plants for the Earth’s oxygen, 70 percent of it actually comes from microorganisms, according to Norman Pace.

The professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at the University of Colorado at Boulder says the invisible life forms sustain Earth.

“We are imbedded in a microbial world, and microorganisms drive the biosphere,” he said.

According to Pace, the planet Earth is filled with microscopic organisms that provide oxygen and help sustain life, but only a handful can be reproduced in a laboratory.

Such limitations make it difficult for scientists to understand all of the impacts microorganisms have, but Pace said he has found another way to explore the miniscule life forms.

Pace has developed a method that uses DNA to help identify and classify microorganisms.

“When you look at organisms grown in a lab, you ask ‘Are they representative?’ and the answer is ‘Yes’ in some cases, but in most cases the answer is ‘No,'” Pace said. “When trying to understand the nature and function of the natural microbial world, I can take samples of DNA and fish around in the genes to tell about the organism.”

Pace will discuss his techniques on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. when he presents his Frontiers of Science lecture, “New Frontiers in Microbial Biodiversity.”

“I will tell folks why the microbial world is important and why we need to learn about that world, and give examples of how to do that,” he said.

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