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Living in Extreme Environments

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Bacteria can survive in almost any environment. They are found on the tops of mountains, the bottom of the deepest seas, in the hot waters of volcanic hot springs and most recently in the frozen ice, deep in the continental ice sheets covering Antarctica. Discoveries of bacteria in unusual places, such as deep in Antarctic lakes, have led some scientists, like John Priscu of Montana State University, to conclude that there is the possibility for bacteria to survive on some of the ice covered planetary moons in our solar system. These scientists conclude that if microbes can thrive in hostile places on the earth why couldn't they survive in similarly hostile places in the solar system. The Jovian moon, Europa, is considered one possible location. This frozen moon has shown evidence of liquid water existing under an icy crust making it a possible source of living bacteria.

In this activity students will develop an experiment that will test the ability of bacteria to survive various temperature extremes. The students will grow the bacteria in nutrient broth. The broth will be placed in different temperatures for at least 24 hours and then spread on nutrient agar plates and incubated at 37 degrees Celcius for an additional 24 hours.

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