Sandia National Laboratories technologist Jenna Schambach working with a sample of Alaska lakebed soil. By studying the microbes in the soil, and the gases they emit, Schambach and project lead Chuck Smallwood hope to improve our understanding of the rapidly melting Arctic permafrost and improve computer models of climate change. (Photo by Craig Fritz)

Burping bacteria: Identifying Arctic microbes that produce greenhouse gases

October 17, 2022 8:21 am Published by

 As greenhouse gases bubble up across the rapidly thawing Arctic, Sandia National Laboratories researchers are trying to identify other trace gases from soil microbes that could shed some light on what is occurring biologically in melting permafrost in the Arctic.

Sandia bioengineer Chuck Smallwood and his team recently spent five days collecting lakebed soil and gas samples. They were joined by international collaborators led by professor Katey Walter Anthony from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, including researchers from the University of Colorado BoulderUniversity of Quebec in Rimouski and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.

“The Arctic is rapidly changing, releasing large amounts of greenhouse gases; we just don’t know how much greenhouse gases are released every year,” Smallwood said. “Our work at Sandia seeks to improve our understanding of how much greenhouse gases soil microbes are producing, without going out and destructively sampling permafrost soils. The goal is to use sensitive gas detection devices to sample microbial volatile compounds coming out with the methane and CO2 gases instead.”

Both methane and CO2 are greenhouse gases, and methane actually traps more heat in the atmosphere than the commonly discussed CO2. In fact, it is 30 times more potent than CO2, Smallwood said.

Read more in the complete news release.

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