The Red Layer Microbial Observatory—a Research Experience for Undergraduates in Yellowstone
Yellowstone National Park: 3 RLMO sites being monitored long-term, 20 RLMO sites surveyed/archived click for RLMO Site Data Base
Bechler-Ferris 1 (more info) survey site
This remote thermal basin, one of the southernmost along the Yellowstone caldera, requires 2-3 days of backpacking to access. This impressive mat was one of many similar features up the Ferris Fork drainage, accessed from Three Forks.
Fairy Geyser has been a consistently active spouter that supports an extensive mat with a variable red layer community. Fairy springs are significantly off-trail.
Modern mat communities are often composed of two types of organisms that form distinct laminations. The top layer of these mat systems is generally composed of oxygenic, photoautotrophic cyanobacteria. Beneath this lies a layer of anoxygenic, photoheterotrophic Chloroflexus [Castenholz, 1984]. Incident light striking the mat surface is filtered through the mat such that the quality of light penetrating each layer of the mat differs. At each layer, the phototrophic organisms consume those wavelengths absorbed by their pigment-protein complexes. In this way, the light-absorbing properties of the bacteria within the layers of the mat are believed to correlate with their positions in the mat [Castenholz, 1984].
Copyright on all images and material by Sarah Boomer 1998-2005.