Virginia Rich
Virginia Rich

Although individual microorganisms are too small to be seen, they are estimated to exceed in mass and number the plants and animals on our planet.  Indeed, all plant and animal life on this planet is dependent on the chemical activities of microbes—a fact often overlooked when we humans focus heavily on the few that cause disease.

Next Thursday’s (June 5) speaker at the Arizona Senior Academy will reveal a fascinating aspect of the potential power of microbes to alter Earth’s environment.  Virginia Rich, an assistant professor in the Department of Soil, Water and Environmental Science at the University of Arizona, will tell how an international collaboration of scientists, led by the University of Arizona, has discovered a microbe that may play an increasingly significant role in our changing environment.  Her talk will begin at 3:30 p.m.

It is a fascinating story because it deals with how events in the frozen tundra of the Arctic can influence future life in the Sonoran Desert.

Rich is just back from work on the melting permafrost soils of northern Sweden.  She will describe the circumstances that make this area of the globe a significant player in the environmental health of our planet.  Massive stockpiles of organic matter in the peat permafrost of this region can potentially be converted to large amounts of the greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide and methane.

Rich is admirably suited to be on the frontline of this research, having received her undergraduate education at the University of California, Berkeley, and her Ph.D. from a joint program of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.  Her recent work has been published in prestigious scientific journals, but her talk will be geared to a general audience.

Submitted by Fred Neidhardt, Academy Village Volunteer


Arctic Tundra Research Linked to Sonoran Desert: June 2014
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