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NSF Grants $1.3M to Study Oklahoma Sulfur Spring Microbes

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Science Foundation has granted $1.3 million to Oklahoma scientists to use genomics and other approaches to study microbes living at a sulfur spring in the state’s southwestern region.
Under the five year program, the NSF will give $800,000 to Oklahoma State University and $500,000 to Oklahoma University to study micro-organisms at the Zodletone Spring, OSU said this week.
“The spring has high sulfide and sulfur concentrations, high levels of gaseous hydrocarbons, and an absence of oxygen that makes it ideal to study and hunt for many of these unique bacteria,” OSU assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, Mostafa Elshahed, said in a statement.
Scientists will use this unusual natural location as “a microbial observatory” for studying four groups of bacteria and the ecological role they play in the spring, according to Elshahed.
Along with the genomics studies, OSU said, researchers will cultivate and study these bacteria in the laboratory.
“Because these bacteria come from an environment in which oxygen is rare, some sophisticated isolation strategies will be used in the laboratory as we verify their environmental role and avoid the presence of oxygen which can kill them,” Elshahed added.
The grant also will support an educational outreach program that will allow high school students to study in a lab, conduct research, and present findings at the Junior Science and Humanities Symposia at OSU.

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