NAU Biology Professor Egbert Schwarz invited science educators to assist him in learning more about soil microbes in arid environments this past summer. Five Flagstaff educators were part of this soil research team: David Krassner and Ted Lyons (CHS), Emily Musta (FALA), Jeff Hines and Nick Irvine (NPA). The goal of the study is to characterize bacterial communities in a range of aridisols (arid soils) and to relate this diversity to environmental parameters using DNA sequence analysis. Ten teachers worked in teams of two to gather five samples from 20 different sites each. Many of the sites were already described in the National Cooperative Soil Survey to aid in site characterization. Teams went to Arizona, Nevada, southern California, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. Each team collected 100 soil samples to contribute to the aridisol data set – including a small sample that was immediately frozen on dry ice for later DNA extraction in the lab. After returning from their soil collecting trips, the teachers extracted the DNA from their samples. The grant provided authentic research experience for the educators and many helping hands for the large aridisol project.
For more information on Dr. Schwartz’s lab activities, see http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/es64/