Morgan Smith – 2020 Wilson Memorial Scholarship

Biography and MS Research Topic: Morgan Smith is a graduate student in the Department of Biology at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC.  Her thesis focuses on manganese-oxidizing microbes and mineral induced selection in two cave systems: an anthropogenically impacted cave called Worley’s Cave and a nearly pristine cave called Daniel Boone Caverns. Mn oxides are known to show a strong preference for some rock/mineral surfaces over others, even when these surfaces are in direct proximity to each other. Based on field observations in a variety of cave, karst, and wetland environments, it is predicted that Mn oxidizers prefer to grow on quartz rather than calcite. The aim of her study is to identify which Mn oxidizing microbes within a local microbial community preferentially colonize some minerals instead of others. Predicting how and where Mn oxides will grow is a vitally important tool for the production of reactive mineral species, which can be used in a variety of water filtration and bioremediation technologies.