New guide, color wheel help Yellowstone visitors identify microbes in hot springs

December 20th, 2013
This new wheel helps visitors identify microorganisms in the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park. Credit: MSU’s Thermal Biology Institute
A new nature guide from Montana State University and the Yellowstone Association helps visitors to Yellowstone National Park use color coding to identify which microorganisms might live in the park's hot springs.

Living Colors: Microbes of Yellowstone National Park is a full-color guide that introduces the public to some of the tiniest residents of Yellowstone. An accompanying identification wheel is also available and can be used by itself or to accompany the book.

The products were created as an educational partnership involving the Yellowstone Association, MSU's Thermal Biology Institute and the Montana Institute on Ecosystems. Both TBI and the Montana IoE are involved in research that focuses on the critical role microbes play in human and natural ecosystems. However, despite Yellowstone seeing upwards of 3 million visitors per year, many of those visitors are unaware of the diversity of life around them. When visitors stand on a boardwalk at Yellowstone, there may be more microbes in the soil beneath their feet than humans on Earth.

YA offers numerous guides to Yellowstone wildlife, but it had no "wildlife guide" about the park's microbes. Scientists representing many disciplines such as microbial ecology, biology, chemistry, biogeochemistry, molecular bioscience, and virology participated in creating the book and identification wheel. Their goal was to educate the public about their research and to create an attractive and accessible guide to Yellowstone's microbes that would appeal to tourists and older children.  

More information:
To purchase the book or microbial identification wheel, visit www.yellowstoneassociation.org/ and search for "Microbes of Yellowstone."

Visit tbi.montana.edu/livingcolors/ to learn more about the guide and to view animations of Yellowstone microbes.

Provided by Montana State University

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