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How Beach Microbes Responded to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

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In June, 2010, two months after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Regina Lamendella collected samples along a hard-hit beach near Grand Isle, Louisiana. She was part of a team of Berkeley Lab researchers that wanted to know how the microbes along the shoreline were responding to the spill. Some microorganisms love to consume hydrocarbons, and

Resistance is Not Futile: Joint BioEnergy Institute Researchers Engineer Resistance to Ionic Liquids in Biofuel Microbes

Researchers with the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have identified the genetic origins of a microbial resistance to ionic liquids and successfully introduced this resistance into a strain of E. coli bacteria for the production of advanced biofuels.

Lignin-Feasting Microbe Holds Promise for Biofuels

Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have identified a rain forest microbe that feasts on the lignin in plant leaf litter, making it a potential ally for the cost-effective production of advanced biofuels.

Berkeley Lab Scientist Invents Portable DNA Extraction Kit, Helps Haiti

What does the coastal community of Bolinas, California have in common with the impoverished island nation of Haiti? The surprising answer is a fledgling sanitation strategy whereby human waste is composted into nutrient-rich fertilizer, all supported by research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientist Gary Andersen.

Microbial Who-Done-It For Biofuels

A multi-institutional collaboration led by researchers with the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) and Joint Genome Institute (JGI) has developed a promising technique for identifying microbial enzymes that can effectively deconstruct biomass into fuel sugars under refinery processing conditions.

Clean, Green High Performance Biofuels from Carbon Dioxide

Researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have engineered a microbe to produce high-performance diesel fuel from the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide rather than from the sugars in cellulosic biomass.

Boldly Illuminating Biology’s “Dark Matter”

In cosmology, dark matter is said to account for the majority of mass in the universe. The biological equivalent is “microbial dark matter,” that pervasive yet practically invisible infrastructure of life on the planet, which can have profound influences on the most significant environmental processes from plant growth and health, to nutrient cycles in terrestrial and marine environments, the global carbon cycle, and possibly even climate processes. By employing next generation DNA sequencing of genomes isolated from single cells, an international collaboration led by the Joint Genome Institute is making great strides in the monumental task of systematically bringing to light and filling in uncharted branches in the bacterial and archaeal tree of life.

Expressly Unfit for the Laboratory

A new Berkeley Lab study challenges the orthodoxy of microbiology, which holds that in response to environmental changes, bacterial genes will boost production of needed proteins and decrease production of those that aren’t. The study found that for bacteria in the laboratory there was little evidence of adaptive genetic response.

Biological Soil Crust Secrets Uncovered

A team of Berkeley Lab researchers has performed molecular level analysis of desert biological soil crusts – living ground cover formed by microbial communities – to reveal how long-dormant cyanobacteria become activated by rainfall then resume dormancy when the precipitation stops.

A Creature From an Alkaline Spring Could Improve Biofuel Processing

As a promising prospect for biofuel production, scientists at Berkeley Lab are studying bacteria that live on decaying vegetation in alkaline springs in an isolated region of the California Coast. Highly alkaline liquids pretreat biofuel feedstocks like switchgrass, breaking down the woody matrix to release sugars microorganisms can feed on. But what if bugs could swim in the alkali, break down the lignin, and ferment the sugars all in one fell swoop?