Biogeophysics is a rapidly evolving interdisciplinary earth science field of research concerned with the geophysical signatures of microbial cells in the Earth, the interaction between microorganisms and subsurface geologic media, and the alteration of the physical properties of geologic media as a result of microbial activity. It represents a transformative area of research that spans the established disciplines of geomicrobiology, environmental microbiology, biogeochemistry and geophysics. Biogeophysical technologies can be considered enabling tools for characterizing the evolution of complex subsurface systems, including those catalyzed by microorganisms, at unique spatial and temporal scales unachievable with other technologies. Specific questions investigated by OSU scientists include:
- What are the direct geophysical signatures of microbial cells and biofilms?
- Can geophysical measurements be used to assess microbe-mineral transformations and biogeochemical reaction rates?
- What geophysical signatures are associated with the generation of microbial-driven redox chemistry and can geophysical measurements be used to non-invasively assess the redox transformations occurring in both natural and anthropogenic environments?
- How can biogeophysics be used to improve understanding of biogeochemical processes in natural and anthropogenic environments?
The knowledge gained from this research can be applied to many areas, including bioremediation of contaminated environments, tracking microbial activity during microbial enhanced oil recovery, monitoring of biobarriers used for carbon dioxide sequestration and exploration of life in extreme environments, such as the deep ocean, polar ice caps and elsewhere in our solar system.