Research@Mines Archive:
October, 2017

Mammoths Under LA

SD Mines Alumna Ashley Leger, PhD.

Under Los Angeles’ streets, the clinks and clangs of construction meld with the rumblings of the subway line—an echo of rumblings tens of thousands of years old. Back then, LA teemed with life of a different sort. Saber-tooth cats, ancient camels, and mastodons roamed, many meeting their fate in the sticky pools of the La Brea Tar Pits or dying of natural causes, remaining undisturbed beneath the shimmer of LA. That is until paleontologist Ashley Leger (PhD Geol GeolE 16) got a call from a colleague working on the Purple Subway Line.

A skull had been discovered.  

Fresh from her PhD at Mines and now serving as the lead paleontologist for the Purple Line Extension, Leger took one look and knew it likely belonged to a young and/or female mastodon or mammoth, the Ice Age’s ancestral relative of the elephant. From there, the fossils poured forth. A mastodon tusk. Tooth fragments. Thigh bones. And an extremely rare forearm from a now-extinct camel. While LA is fertile ground for fossils, boasting thousands of dire wolves and saber-tooth cats, Leger says only about forty camels, or Camelops hesternus, have ever been unearthed from the tar pits.

The fact that anything was unearthed still astounds Leger. “Paleontologists estimate less than 1 percent of life on earth fossilizes.” A staggering amount of that fossilized life is found in LA. This area, anchored by the LA County M...

Last Edited 1/10/2018 03:13:55 PM [Comments (0)]

LLSM a 3D Window to the Unknown

Robert Anderson, Ph.D., with the LLSM

For most of human history, the existence of living cells was a complete mystery. Anton van Leeuwenhoek is credited with being the first person to view single-celled organisms. In 1674, he peered through a handmade microscope and described the algae Spirogyra. The subsequent publication of his work helped form the foundation of microbiology.

The science continued to advance alongside the microscope, but for hundreds of years much of the inner-workings of living cells have remained elusive and unknown. Cells exist in three dimensions, microscopes only produce images in two.   

Today, that's changing thanks to new techniques in optical microscopy, such as the 2014 invention of Lattice Light-Sheet Microscope (LLSM) by Nobel Laureate Eric Betzig, PhD. This breakthrough technique provides high-speed real-time 3D moving images from inside living cells without damaging them. This tool has the potential to push the boundaries of cellular biology and advance breakthroughs in medical science and biotechnology. The LLSM allows researchers to view cellular processes in a way they could not before.

“SD Mines is very proud of many successes of our faculty and students who are working on the frontiers of science and engineering,” says SD Mines Interim President Jan Puszynski.

The LLSM uses a rapid succession of lasers formed into a 2D plane to excite various fluorescent proteins...

Last Edited 10/3/2023 04:51:39 PM [Comments (0)]

SD Mines BuG ReMeDEE Team Lands $6 Million Grant to Study Microbes of the Methane Cycle in Extreme Environments

Rajesh Sani, Ph.D., (right) associate professor and Saurabh Dhiman, Ph.D., research scientist in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department at SD Mines are two members of the BuG ReMeDEE team.

Researchers at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology have been awarded a $6 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study the range of microbes that consume methane in deep and extreme environments. The project is named Building Genome-to-Phenome Infrastructure for Regulating Methane in Deep and Extreme Environments (BuG ReMeDEE). This research (pronounced “bug remedy”) can help scientists better understand the methane cycle in natural extreme conditions, such as under Yellowstone National Park and in the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF). The methane cycle is the generation and consumption of methane by various microbes.  Researchers will also study how some of these microbes can be used to convert methane into useable products and materials. 

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas. This research will help scientists better understand the climatological impact of methane generated under places like Yellowstone and in other geothermic and fossil fuel beds.

“This BuG ReMeDEE consortium will garner the world’s attention on the significance of analyzing the methane regulation in deep-subsurface and extreme environments,” says Rajesh Sani, Ph.D., associate professor in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department at SD Mines and the principal investigator of the initiative...

Last Edited 9/19/2023 08:25:18 PM [Comments (0)]

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