Studies of the microbe/mineral interface (MMI) (minerals and the microbes on them) represent one of the most fundamental and difficult areas of microbiology, and USC Earth Sciences Geobiology research is involved with many aspects. Microbes attach to surfaces, form biofilms on them, and often alter the surfaces as a result of this interaction, leading to the descruction (dissolution), transformation, or even the formation of minerals.
One area of research is the study of the dynamics of the MMI - how do microbes attach, how do they chemically alter minerals once attached, and how and when do they alter the minerals while attached? The tools used for these studies include molecular biology, microbial physiology, geochemistry, electrochemistry, and imaging of many different kinds.
Earth Sciences research also involves studies of the behavioral responses of the dissimilatory metal-reducing microorganism, Shewanella oneidensis MR-1, to metals and minerals that can be used as anaerobic electron acceptors. USC faculty also are interested in responses to common carbon sources, such as chitin. Studies of behavioral responses under environmentally-relevant conditions will allow a better understanding of the ecophysiology of this, and other, bacteria.