Microbe Collection :  Mountaineers  — worldwide in extreme environments
The critical role of biological weathering in shaping high altitude landscapes.

The Project
Microorganisms are unique colonizers of Earth’s boundaries, such as mountain top surfaces, where they are primary actors in the biogeochemical cycles of nutrients. Together with climatic forces they contribute substantially to the overall function of the mountain landscape, with effects far reaching in the wider biosphere. Measuring how microbial ecosystems interact with primary bedrock at these sites is important for both, the mechanistic understanding of initial phases of element cycling, and their response to environmental changes. An example of rock-microbe interaction is displayed in Fig. 1.

Microbes High Altitude

Fig.1 Light microscopy image showing colonization of unweathered basalt particles (0.25-0.5mm) by Glomus intraradices mycorrhizal fungi and associated bacteria.
How will this data be used?
The overall goal of this research is to quantify the bio-transformation of
primary bedrock in the upper limits of the mountain biome. Knowledge of this
process is likely to reveal vital clues about the evolution of microbes-rock
interaction in these environments. Secondly, this activity equally allows
explorers, scientists and society gain unique insights into the functioning of
such remote places, which will ultimately help in their conservation
How Can You Participate?
For this project bedrock will be sampled from several mountain ranges across different latitudes. Small-size rock samples, of about 50g each, will be collected from exposed bedrock on elevation gradient (ideally at sites 200 m altitude apart) during descent phases of expeditions. A total of 3-5 rock samples will be collected at each altitude and will represent a sampling site. To allow comparative analysis on elevation gradient, same rock type is sought in each expedition. Samples will be taken in plastic bags with minimum amount of soil and shipped to our laboratory for further analyses. Local landscape and weather condition will be recorded in the field, together with sampling site geographical coordinates.