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Microorganisms and Earth Systems—Advances in Geomicrobiology

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Abstract

Geomicrobiology is still in its infancy. It comprises a vast field of interconnected scientific subfields ranging from geology, chemistry, and physics to biology, especially microbiology. Traditional microbiology has relied on genetic and metabolic studies of pure cultures; however, only a fraction of the microorganisms from any environment are culturable, making culture-independent approaches necessary. These novel methods have propelled microbial ecology to become one of the most exciting areas of contemporary microbiology research. In parallel, geochemists realized that many important processes such as mineral and soil formation, global and local cycling of many elements, and metal transformations were mainly catalyzed by microorganisms. Many geochemists and soil scientists have relied on bulk measurements; essentially not studying the micro-environments where the reactions take place, but instead looking at the final result and treating these environments as a black box. Geomicrobiology was essentially created in an attempt to put these two developments together.

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