Deep Talks looks at life underground

Cynthia Anderson and Dave Bergmann collect biofilm samples underground at Sanford Lab.
Credit: 
Matt Kapust

For more than 100 years, Homestake miners went deep to find gold. Today, scientists from around the world are going deep underground at Sanford Lab in search of microscopic organisims that could change life on the surface. 

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology biology professors and students are looking for ways to use microbes to convert solid waste into biofuels and bacteria into antibiotics. 

The NASA Astrobiology Institute, Desert Research Institute and Jet Propulsion Lab are studying life underground to develop technology that will be used to search for life on Mars. 

Black Hills State University (BHSU) professors are trying to understand how microbes survive without access to oxygen and limited nutritional resources. 

To shed some light on life underground, BHSU’s Dr. Dave Bergmann, professor of biology, and Dr. Cynthia Anderson, associate professor of biology, will discuss the microbial diversity present in the deep reaches of Sanford Lab Thursday, Nov. 10, at the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center in Lead.

“Our goal is to gain new knowledge about the adaptations and biochemical pathways microbes use to survive in the unique environments present underground,” Anderson said. 

In Sanford Lab’s unique ecosystems, microbes from the earth’s surface interact with microbes that are indigenous to the deep underground where there are limited nutritional resources, and no light. 

“Learning more about what is living deep underground, and understanding the biochemical pathways those microbes use to survive could lead to new biotechnological advances,” Anderson said.

Deep Talks: Life Underground begins at 5 p.m. with a social hour; the talk begins at 6 p.m. Deep Talks is free to the public. Donations to support community education are welcome. Guests aged 21 and older may sample craft brews from Crow Peak Brewery. Light refreshments, sponsored by First National Bank, will be served during the social hour.