Douglas Shinneman, USGS. Public domain

When a fire burns through an area, one of the first plants to reestablish is the aspen tree. This is because aspens reproduce clonally, meaning new saplings sprout from the underground root system of adult trees.

Even if the trees are damaged aboveground, the root system is likely to survive well enough to produce new saplings. This got researchers wondering if trees that sprouted after a fire were any different from the ones before it. So they looked at a stand of aspens that was part of a controlled burn.

The microbe known as Verrucomicrobium spinosum, catalogued by microbestiary.org
Dennis Kunkel and James T. Staley

The microbesitary is a University of Wyoming program and website that seeks to illustrate the microbial world.

Lusha Tronstad

Alpine areas are predicted to be one of the areas most affected by climate change and some unique microbes have made their homes in the glacier-fed streams there. The loss of these little critters can have large effects on both the ecosystem around them and on people, says University of Wyoming invertebrate zoologist Lusha Tronstad.

Melodie Edwards

In the last few years, researchers have discovered the earth is literally filled with microbes, those little single-celled critters we sometimes call germs. They’ve even been found living as deep as the earth’s core. And they say these microbes could help us gain access to thousands of years of knowledge. Now scientists at the University of Wyoming want to use those layers of ancient history to help us recover from wildfires as the climate warms up.

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.