voices from the students of the University of Alaska
Author: Lauren Whitt
Undergraduate Biology student at UAF with interests in plant evolution and genetics. My current research project is identifying plant families from ancient, environmental DNA in permafrost from the CRREL permafrost tunnel in Fox, Alaska.
Microbes are everywhere. They live in our backyards, on our pets, in our homes and even on and inside of us! Microbes are the bacteria, fungi and viruses that exist in a particular environment, including the human body, soil, plants and the kitchen counter (Marchesi & Ravel, 2015). Our first experience with microbes is usually at home, where we are taught to wash our hands to prevent us from getting sick. “You can’t eat without washing,” your aunt might say, “there are germs all over your hands!” Your aunt is right. For every human cell in our body, there is a microbe cell to match it (Sender et al., 2016). However not all of these microbes are harmful.
When someone asks you what animals looked like 30,000 years ago, you might describe a majestic scene like the picture above, or you might describe one of your favorite characters from Blue Sky Studio’s movie Ice Age. Now what if you were asked to describe the plants of the Ice Age? Many of us wouldn’t know where to start, and that’s okay because scientists are still discovering what vegetation was characteristic during the Ice Age. Let’s be honest, learning about a majestic mammoth or saber tooth tiger is way cooler than studying a puny arctic sedge, but knowledge of ancient plants hold important information related to studies on climate change and ancient animal habitat and diet. Continue reading “DNA helps piece together ancient Ice Age vegetation”