I thought I would share with you today a bit about my work at Montana State University: How I go about getting extremophiles from Yellowstone National Park to work with in the lab.
The first step is to have a research objective. Â In my case it is to sample from specific hot springs, culture the dominant organism(s) and attempt to infect those cultures with unique extreme viruses (usually archaea and archaeal viruses).
The hot springs I work with are “Boiling Acid” hot springs with a pH around 2 and a temp of 80 degrees C. Â I generally collect total water and sediment samples as well as filtered samples that may contain viruses but no cells. Â A sampling pole or tongs is key so you don’t burn yourself. Â Many of these thermal areas in Yellowstone areÂ constantlyÂ changing, and you don’t want to fall through, so my recommendation is to follow along the animal tracks .
Our most recently sampling tripÂ occurredÂ after the park was closed to visitors, and before it re-opened for snowmachine traffic, so the whole place was eerily quiet compared to the freakish volume of people in the summers. Â Luckily there was only a foot of snow or less on the ground and we did not have to wear snowshoes to get into our sample site, which is about two kilometers off the road in the Craters Hills region. Make sure to have all your sterile samplingÂ containersÂ lined up before you go, and packing plenty of extra supplies is advised in case you find something interesting you want to take back for study.
For all you out-of-state or out-of-the-country based researchers, let me know if you need samples, and I may be able to assist you on my next trip into the park!