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Photo © Winston Macdonald 2014
Microbialites were likely the first biological communities on Earth. Understanding them allows us to ask and answer questions about the evolution of communities, complex life, and the role that environment plays in community structure and composition.
Sumner’s lab group is currently addressing these topics through their work in the lakes of McMurdo Dry Valley in Antarctica as well as on Archean microbialites.
Megan Krusor is studying the hierarchy of constraints on the microbial communities in the lakes by comparing microbial communities that grow under different water chemistries and physical conditions.
Kate Wall is exploring the origin of the complex morphological structures of the microbial mats by linking the geochemical conditions, genotypes, and phenotypes of benthic mats.
Tyler Mackey is investigating the preservation of microbialites by measuring specific geochemical properties of the lakes and comparing them to carbonate entrapment by microbial mats.
Marisol Juarez Rivera is reconstructing the three dimensional morphology of Archean microbialites and developing methods for comparing them to mats living in Antarctica lakes.
In addition, Sumner is working on the MSL Curiosity mission, helping shape and interpret observations to understand environmental conditions through time in Gale Crater, Mars.