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University Researchers Welcome New Robot To Help Process Microbe Samples

Melodie S. Edwards
Wyoming Public Radio

It’s year two in a major project to catalog the microbes of Wyoming, and now University of Wyoming scientists have a robot to help them do the job.

Researchers from an array of disciplines are collecting thousands of samples from the state’s diverse landscape, from the top of the Wind River Range to the bottom of deep lakes in the Snowy Range, and even from archaeology sites. 

Geology Professor Bryan Shuman said the $20-million grant from the National Science Foundation allowed them to purchase a robotic machine to help process the millions of single-celled animal samples that will start pouring in.

“What the robot does is repeat the same steps really precisely over and over and over again, so we can go through many, many thousands of samples in exactly the same way,” he said.

Shuman said by the end of the five-year grant, the team hopes to have a broad survey of Wyoming’s microbes and how they could help people solve problems like oil spill clean-ups and reforestation after a forest fire.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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