II. Microbial Communities and Activities in Oligotrophic Environments - Deserts




The hyperarid core of the Atacama Desert is devoid of plant life and receives only a few millimeters of precipitation every few years. As such it has been labeled one of the driest places on earth and yet viable bacteria and DNA have been recovered from the driest region of this desert. Current research investigates the diversity and community structure of bacteria in this extreme, oligotrophic environment and strives to characterize the basic components of a viable microbial community.


Representative photograph of the Antofagasta (Chile) transect. The Iomas vegetation at ~510 m.    
Punta Negra (Atacama desert, Chile) at 2792 m, soil pit on alluvial surface   Punta Negra (Atacama desert, Chile) at 320;, note complete absence of plant cover


Project: Microbial Diversity of the Hyper-arid Regions of the Atacama Desert, Chile

Funding Source: NSF

Collaborators: Dr. Jay Quade and Dr. Julio Betancourt

Relevant Publications:

Neilson, J.W., J. Quade, M. Ortiz, W.M. Nelson, A. Legatzki, F. Tian, M. LaComb, J.L. Betancourt, R.A. Wing, C.A. Soderlund, and R.M. Maier. 2012. Life at the hyperarid margin: novel bacterial diversity in arid soils. Extremophiles 16:553-566.


Drees, K.P., J.W. Neilson, J.L. Betancourt, J.Quade, D.A. Henderson, B.M. Pryor, and R.M. Maier.  2006.  Bacterial diversity in the hyper-arid core of the Atacama Desert, Chile.  Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 72:7902-7908.

Maier, R.M., K.P. Drees, J.W. Neilson, J. Quade, D.A. Henderson, and J.L. Betancourt. 2004.  Microbial life in the Atacama Desert.  Science, 306:1289-1290.