SLIME Team People

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The SLIME Team

Diana Northup
University of New Mexico

Diana at the Head of Boulder Falls in Lechugilla Cave, New Mexico.

Diana Northup has been studying things that live in caves since 1984. She has a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of New Mexico. She and her colleagues on the SLIME (Subsurface Life In Mineral Environments) Team are investigating how microbes help form the colorful ferromanganese deposits that coat the walls of Lechuguilla and Spider Cave in Carlsbad Caverns National Park (funded by the National Science Foundation Life in Extreme Environments Program); how these deposits compare to surface desert/rock varnish coatings (funded by the NSF Geosciences Directorate); how microbes participate in the precipitation of calcium carbonate formations called pool fingers; and the microbial diversity located in the hydrogen sulfide cave, Cueva de las Sardinas in Tabasco, Mexico. Diana has been honored by having her work featured on NOVA and by being asked to serve as a Guest Editor for Geomicrobiology Journal for a special issue on Geomicrobiology of Caves. She is also the recipient of a Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation grant to study the impact of humans on microbial populations in caves. Currently, Diana blends the best of both worlds by teaching biology students information searching skills in Centennial Library at the University of New Mexico, where she is a Professor Emerita, and by actively researching cave microbial ecology using molecular and microscopy techniques. She is also a Visiting Associate Professor of Biology and guest lectures in various Biology courses and teaches a Freshman Learning Community, The World of Microbes.

Diana has been interviewed by Teresa Dow. Diana's Curriculum Vita and a list of honors is also online.

Penelope J. Boston
New Mexico Tech

Penelope Boston sampling in Spider Cave. Photo by Kenneth Ingham.

Dr. Penelope J. Boston has been studying life in extreme Earth environments since 1979 and thinking about how to apply such information to the search for life beyond Earth. Boston’s particular interests are in the precipitation of distinguishable biominerals, biotextures, and geochemical signals that can be used as biosignatures of life in Earth’s ancient rock record and for future extraterrestrial life-detection missions. She is particularly concerned with the patterns that microbial communities may form in response to microbial, chemical, and physical processes. She is also engaged in trying to uncover the underlying ecological and energetic themes that can be seen in a wide range of geochemical microbial subsurface habitats. Penny does a great deal of public outreach and frequently appears in the print and broadcast press, e.g. on NOVA, the BBC, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Learning Channel, History Channel and many others. Dr. Boston is Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Director of Cave and Karst Studies at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, NM. In addition, she is Associate Director (Academics) at the National Cave and Karst Research Institute in Carlsbad, NM. She is passionate about and extensively involved in educational outreach about caves and karst issues, space exploration, and general science for school kids, older students, elder groups, and the general public.

Penny's Web site

Kim Plymale wrote story about Penelope Boston.

Michael Spilde
University of New Mexico

Mike Spilde is the Manager of the Microprobe/SEM Laboratories at the Institute of Meteoritics at the University of New Mexico. His skills as a mineralogist and microscopist are put to work in addresses the geological side of the biogenic nature of speleothems in caves.

Michael's web page.

Michael has been interviewed by Teresa Dow.

Leslie Melim
Western Illinois University

Leslie Melim leads the SLIME Team research on the geomicrobiology of cave pool precipitates, to determine which features are truly inorganic versus those either precitipated or mediated by microbial activity.

Leslie's web page.

Clifford N. Dahm
University of New Mexico

Cliff Dahm in Spider Cave. Photo by Kenneth Ingham.

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Teresa Dow interviewed him.

Laura J. Crossey
University of New Mexico

Laura Crossey in Spider Cave. Photo by Kenneth Ingham.

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Teresa Dow interviewed her.

SLIME Team Associates

Jessica Snider
Master's, University of New Mexico, 2010
Jessica Snider completed her Master's in Biology at the University of New Mexico in 2010 under Drs. Will Pockmand and Diana Northup, studying the role of roots in caves as a conduit for nutrients and microorganisms in the lava caves of El Malpais.
Jenny Hathaway
Master's, University of New Mexico, 2010
Jennifer Hathaway joined the Slime Team in August of 2008, and completed her Master's in Biology at the University of New Mexico under Dr. Diana Northup and Dr. Robert Sinsabaugh in May 2010. She earned a B.S. in Biology from Stanford University in 2001, graduating with honors. Her Master's project focused on the diversity of bacteria in the lava tubes on Terceira Island, Azores, Portugal, where she investigated whether there are environmental factors influencing bacterial diversity in these lava tubes. She is especially interested in the extent of microbial diversity in lava tubes and how these microbes participate in cycling nitrogen in this unique environment.
Kathleen H. Lavoie
SUNY Plattsburgh
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Lawrence M. Mallory
Biomes, Inc.
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Louise Hose
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Carlos Alberto Cordero Martinez
Kolem Ja, Tabasco, Mexico
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Alejadra Alvarada Zink
Universum Science Museum
University City, Mexico D.F.
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SLIME Team Students

Matt Garcia
Undergraduate, University of New Mexico
Matthew G. Garcia, majoring in Biology at UNM, is pursuing research into the microbial diversity of lava tubes on the island of Hawai’i. Matt has sampled lava tubes of different ages that are located in different volcanic flows and that are located under different surface vegetation and precipitation regimes in order to shed light on what controls diversity in colorful microbial mats that coat the walls of many lava tubes worldwide. He presented his results at the International Congress of Speleology, which was held in Texas in July 2009. Although born in Albuquerque, Matt spent his early years in a small (600 people) NM town, Seboyeta, before moving to Grants, NM. His high school biology teacher, Mr. Alexander, and his participation in a Science Fair project shaped his interest in science, and biology in particular. He’s particularly interested in discovering new information about living things.
Ali Ghadimi
Undergraduate, University of New Mexico
Ali Ghadimi is interested mainly in microbiology and is currently studying the G. destructans fungus, which is the cause of the disease White Nose Syndrome in bats. He is looking at several caves in the El Malpais area in western New Mexico for any sign of this emerging disease. Additionally, he is working on the Scanning Electron Microscope in the hopes of discovering microbial communities hidden in mineral deposits, a project that has astrobiological uses.
Ara Kooser
Ph.D. Student, University of New Mexico
Ara Kooser is completing a Master's in Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of New Mexico under Dr. Laura Crossey and will be entering the Ph.D. program in Chemistry, also at UNM, studying the genomics of secondary metabolite production in caves. His master's work is a study of the geochemistry of cave pools and what the water chemistry can tell us about the formation of pool precipitates in caves.
Noelle Martinez
Undergraduate, University of New Mexico
Noelle Martinez is studying the influence of nutrient availability on extracellular enzyme activity in caves. Exoenzmes produced by microorganisms in caves may elucidate whether microbial communities are most limited by carbon, nitrogen, or phosphorus. Extracellular enzyme activity (EEA) can be quantified to determine microbial activity and nutrient cycling contribution.

Past SLIME Team Students

Nwamaka Nwagbologu
Undergraduate, University of New Mexico
Amaka Nwagbologu graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2010 with a degree in Psychology and is now attending the College of Pharmacy. She worked in the Northup Lab from 2005 until 2010 and completed the Human Impact on Microbial Communities in Caves project. Her projects included work on the Aeromicrobiology project and the Desert Varnish project. She focused her efforts on sequencing, editing, and culturing.
Megan Curry
Master's, New Mexico Tech, 2009
Megan Curry completed a master's under the direction of Penny Boston at New Mexico Tech, studying the role of microorganisms in moonmilk formation.
Aurora Auwen
Former Undergraduate, University of New Mexico
Aurora Auwen assisted Armand Dichosa in studying the microbial communities in the ferromanganese deposits in Spider Cave.
Monica Moya
B.S. Biology, University of New Mexico, 2010
Monica Moya is an international student from Venezuela who earned a B.S. in Biology, with a minor in Chemistry. She worked as an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Diana Northup’s cave microbiology lab. Monica studied the bacterial composition and diversity of desert varnish. Her work also involved the comparison of the microbial diversity found in lava tubes in El Malpais National Monument (Grants, NM). Monica was co-awarded the Cave Conservancy of the Virginia’s Undergraduate Research Grant, to study the microbial community composition found in the Hawaiian and New Mexican lava tubes. After doing a one year intership at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Monica will be attending the University of Michigan for graduate school.
Armand Dichosa
Postdoctoral Fellow
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Armand E. Dichosa joined the University of New Mexico's Department of Biology in 2001 as a Masters student researching evolution in the euryarchaeote Methanospirillum hungatei, using the cell-division protein, FtsZ, as a molecular marker. After receiving his M.S. in 2004, he continued his academic career with the department in pursuit of a Ph.D. under Doctors Diana Northup and Larry L. Barton, which was awarded in 2009. For his Ph.D. he investigated the biogenecity of ferromanganese deposits (FMD) in karst cave systems. Spider Cave in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM.It is known that FMD, which coats the cave walls with a wide array of colors, are the metabolic products of microbially influenced iron and manganese oxidation (forming Fe3+ and Mn4+). The basic questions of Armand's research asked: 1) Who are the microbes that comprise the variant FMD color communities?; 2) Of the ones identified, which ones are known iron and manganese oxidizers?; 3) Is there a correlation across the different FMD communities with regards to species number, common species, and dominant species?; and, 4) How are these microorganisms able to acquire their nutrients from their chemolithotrophic environment? He is the recipient of the New Mexico Geological Society of America Kottlowski Fellowship (2007), and is a two-time recipient of NASA's New Mexico Space Grant Consortium Fellowship (2007, 2008). Throughout his graduate career, Armand was active in educating biology undergraduates and mentored students interested in laboratory research. He was a teaching assistant in microbial cultures, genetics problem-based sessions, the Biology Department's Molecular Biology Facility, co-instructed a course in Microbial Diversity and Evolution, and TA'ed ten semesters of Microbiology Lab for both Biology and Health-Science majors. Armand was nominated for the Gunter-Starkey Graduate Student of the Year Award (2004), and won Best Graduate Research Poster (2006, 2008) and Best Graduate Research Presentation (2007) from the Rio Grande Branch of the American Society for Microbiology.
Marco Terrazas
Former IMSD Undergraduate, University of New Mexico
Marcos Terrazas studied the production of antibiotics of cave microoganisms in the lava caves of El Malpais National Monument as part of the Initiatives for Minority Student Diversity (IMSD) program at the University of New Mexico.
Andi Hunter
Former student at the University of New Mexico in the Water Resources Master's Program
Andi Hunter studied the impact of introduced plasticizers in pools in Lechuguilla Cave on indigenous and introduced microorganisms for her Master's in the Water Resources Program at the University of New Mexico.
Rachel Schelbe
Former undergraduate student at the University of New Mexico
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Kathy Dano (formerly Kathy Dotson)
Former undergraduate student at the University of New Mexico
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Kathy's web site.

Donna Pham
Former undergraduate student at the University of New Mexico
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Past SLIME Team Staff

Laura Yu (previously, Laura Bean)
University of Michigan
Former technician in Diana Northup's Lab at The University of New Mexico
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April Wright
National Clonal Germplasm Repository
Corvallis, OR
Former research scientist I in Diana Northup's Lab at The University of New Mexico
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Past SLIME Team Associates

Jody van de Kamp
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Sue Barns
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SLIME Team Friends

Morgan Perrone
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Morgan's autobiography

William White
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An interview with William and Betty White

This web site Copyright 2007, 2011, Kenneth Ingham