How the World Breathes

Jeff Bowman studies tiny life forms in extreme conditions

Sampling sea ice in the Arctic Basin — photo provided by Jeff Bowman

Jeff Bowman is a Science Communication Fellow with Pacific Science Center, and as you might imagine he has some incredible science to share!

From the University of Washington in Seattle, to Alaska, to the North Pole! Jeff has traveled far while studying sea ice and microbial respiration — that is, the breathing of very small, very simple forms of life. He is interested in the survival mechanisms of bacteria in cold, salty environments.

For Jeff, biological oceanography goes hand in hand with astrobiology. Scientists consider the icy moon of Europa, orbiting Jupiter, as perhaps the most likely host of extraterrestrial life in our solar system, and Mars may have similarly habitable environments. Scientists like Jeff study the origin, evolution, distribution, and future of life here on Earth, and beyond.

Jeff brings all this down to Earth, here at Life Sciences Research Weekend with a probe which measures the amount of carbon dioxide currently in the room. As the number of people grows, we can see data from the probe displayed live on one of Jeff’s laptops. The carbon dioxide grows in the room thanks to all of us breathing, up until the room’s ventilation system compensates — then the amount of carbon dioxide levels out on the graph, right before our eyes.

Jeff also brought several tubes full of water, mud, and tiny living things from the nearby Duwamish River. He shares with us how they, too are breathing and the differences between their respiration and our own.

University of Washington :: Department of Oceanography and Astrobiology :: Life Sciences Research Weekend 2010 :: Photo by Mohini Patel Glanz

Seeing all of this in person helps bring science to life — and who can resist wondering what might lurk in or under the ice of Europa : )

About the School of Oceanography at the University of Washington

The School of Oceanography fosters continued advancement of the ocean sciences, solutions to problems of societal relevance, and public awareness of the marine environment. It is at the forefront of creating knowledge and understanding about the ocean through observation, theory, modeling and technological innovation. The School focuses on learning and discovery, equipping students with knowledge and insights, scholarly methods, scientific tools and communication skills.

About the Astrobiology Program at the University of Washington

The Astrobiology Program investigates the wide range of multidisciplinary factors that may influence the origin and evolution of life on Earth and beyond.

This investigation demands an intense interdisciplinarity, and the Astrobiology Program at the University of Washington is creating a new community of scholars, investigators, and educators. This community is skilled in multidisciplinary methods and thinking and pushes the boundaries beyond the commonplace with intellectual vigor, creativity, and rigorous method.

Astrobiology at the University of Washington builds on the strengths of traditional academic structure to transcend the limits of specialization through the synergy of multidisciplinary cooperation in both research and education.

About Science Communication Fellows at Pacific Science Center

Science Communication Fellows are scientists, researchers and other science-based professionals who have been certified by Pacific Science Center as current science ambassadors and excellent communicators. Fellows join Pacific Science Center in inspiring lifelong interest in science, math and technology.

By Brian Glanz for NWABR. Please reuse and remix! We share with a Creative Commons Attribution License.