Adventurer Contributes to Discovery of New Single-Celled Organism

Diatom

Our volunteers at Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation are exploring the farthest reaches of the globe, and sometimes, they accomplish amazing things. After years of sampling from high mountain lakes in the Pacific Northwest, the work of our hikers and climbers gathering water from alpine lakes has paid off.

Their samples provided the basis for ASC partner scientist Dr. Loren Bahls to discover a new genus of diatom.

This means that during a solo weekend backpacking trip in the Olympic Mountains, Washington, ASC adventurer Craig Weiland not only climbed Mount Deception, he was able to give back to conservation. Craig and others did this around the northwest, on trips to places including Crater Lake, Oregon, Montana’s Beartooth Mountains, and Yellowstone National Park.

Diatoms are essential to the health of the planet. These single-celled photosynthetic organisms form the base of nearly all aquatic food chains, and they account for around 40 percent of carbon fixation and oxygen production worldwide, according Dr. Bahls, who curates the Montana Diatom Collection.

The black line serves as a 10-micron (0.01mm) scale in this microscopic photo of Kurtkrammeria weilandii. (Photo courtesy Loren Bahls)

“Diatoms appeared sometime during the Cretaceous, about the same time as flowering plants and when dinosaurs ruled the land,” explains Dr. Bahls. “When you slip on the rocks in a mountain stream, you are slipping on a thin layer of diatoms and the mucilage they produce.”

He named the new genus Kurtkrammeria after the German diatom researcher Kurt Krammer, and the new type species Kurtkrammeria weilandii (pictured at left) for Craig Weiland one of the most active volunteers on the project. Craig’s photos from his sampling adventures in the Cascades are featured in the slide show above.

K. weilandii, Dr. Bahls explained, exhibits all the physical features that distinguish the new genus from other —> Read More

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