A post for the scientists…..
About this thesis thingy that’s been keeping Gail busy these last few months (years in fact). It strikes me that she’s been dragging her feet rather when it comes to publishing her research.
Now I may well be, after Gail, the second most knowledgeable creature on the planet on her subject of ‘anaerobic methane oxidation in soils’. Not only have I patiently watched her hour upon hour sat at her computer writing up all her results, I’ve also helped her with her fieldwork (see picture) and even, occasionally, but don’t tell anyone, assisted in the lab. So I’ve decided to write a review paper on the subject, for open-access online publication. To help both her career and mine.
First let me translate the title into English. I think ‘How Bugs in Bogs Eat Methane’ sums it up nicely. Gail says this wouldn’t get past her supervisor, but to press on anyway.
Introduction: Methane gas is a Bad Thing because of Global Warming. Bugs (microbes) in boggy soils produce methane. Usually. Everyone knows that. But maybe there’s also some boggy soils which have bugs that eat up methane. Let’s go and have a look at a whole load of bogs and see if we can find any that eat methane.
Methods: With the help of a canine companion, lots of bogs were visited and everyone involved got very dirty digging up soil (great fun!) and taking it back to the lab, where Gail did lots of tests (boring). These experiments seemed to involve attempts to suffocate the bugs in the soil by depriving them of oxygen. (At one point I considered calling in the RSPCA, but apparently you’re allowed to do this sort of thing to single-celled organisms)
Results: Almost all the soils from the bogs were very boring and produced methane, but eventually Gail tested one that wasn’t boring and ‘proved her hypothesis’, i.e. it ate methane. Gail thinks the bugs in this soil must be very clever because they can breathe iron or something rather than oxygen.
Discussion: I guess breathing iron and eating methane would be a cool thing to do if you’re a microbe. I wonder why some soils have these bugs and others don’t. Please give Gail a grant so she can do some more work and find out.
P.S. Should any reader wish to cite this paper in their research, the correct format is:
Westie, H. and Riekie, G.J. (2009). How Bugs in Bogs Eat Methane. JSSDWB*, vol 1, issue 1, pp1-1.
*Journal of the Scientific Society of Dogs with Blogs.