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Karlyn Beer is a PhD candidate in the Molecular and Cellular Biology program at University of Washington and the Baliga lab at ISB. Karlyn's interests lie at the intersection of systems biology, epidemiology and public health, and she is currently working to understand how microbes use complex environmental cues for adaptation in diverse chemical environments.
In harsh hypersaline ecosystems, like the north Great Salt Lake (GSL), microbes have evolved in a chemically dynamic aquatic environment that walks the limit of salt solubility. Extreme halophilic archaea dominate microbial communities here, and have evolved unique physiologies that allow for the maintenance of osmotic balance. However, these cells experience complex changes in hypersaline chemistry (spatial and temporal gradients in ion composition as well as total salinity) and must adjust their physiology on appropriate time scales in order to thrive. In addition to the conceptual value of understanding microbial adaptation to complex environmental factors, the practical consequences of adaptation in hypersaline environments are vast: 1) Agricultural and petroleum industrial waste is often hypersaline, and degradation of hydrocarbons by extreme halophiles is [NaCl]-dependent, and 2) Carbon mineralization after soil rehydration (the Birch Effect) has large implications for global carbon balances, and microbial osmotic stress responses have been implicated in this process.