Effect of Human Interference on the Growth of Microbial Communities at the Big Spring, Hot Springs State Park, Thermopolis, Wyoming, The

Wilcox, Tracey R.
Recent procedures by the Hot Springs State Park staff in Thermopolis, WY, have resulted in the disturbance of the microbial mats and other growth in the spring and its outflow channel. In the 52 °C spring, the presence of the bacterial mats, filaments, algae and other growth has drastically been reduced, if not destroyed, over the past year. Before the removal began, the filamentous bacteria were thick, long and undulating, with many trapped gas bubbles and thick mats. The overall character of the growth is significantly different when compared to the observations taken before this new procedure began. After preparing the site, samples were collected at regular intervals. We are completing a temporal study of the re-growth after disturbance, using close observation of the growth patterns within a selected site, and correlation of the water geochemistry with the microbial phenotype. Observing the temporal changes in this community of organisms will contribute to the limited knowledge of this hot spring and the impact of human disruption on their existence, and should lead to preservation of this important habitat. Genetically characterizing the extremophiles and observing growth patterns in this hot spring will contribute to the limited knowledge of the evolution of life on early Earth.
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