University Researchers Welcome New Robot To Help Process Microbe Samples

Jul 20, 2018

Researcher Joshua Harrison stands next to the new robot that will be used to process samples of microbes from around the state.
Credit 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.