Permafrost, or ground that has been frozen for at least two years, covers roughly a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere. And it is teeming with microbes, including many with unique characteristics that have allowed them to adapt to extremely low temperatures and survive for decades.

As climate change threatens to thaw permafrost and revive these microbial multitudes, ERDC is conducting extensive basic research to better understand these tiny organisms, comprehend what will happen when they are activated, and harness their special powers for new technologies.

On the latest episode of the Power of ERDC podcast, we talk with Dr. Robyn Barbato, a research microbiologist at ERDC’s Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, about how this research will support military operations in extreme cold regions and will improve our understanding of the impact of climate change on Arctic ecosystems.

We discuss the hidden power of these frozen microorganisms (3:18), why this research is important to the military (6:32), how it can improve the understanding of climate change (7:46), how ERDC’s people (18:05) and world-class facilities (20:10) enable this research, and what the future holds for this effort (35:09). We also explore how these living microbes can be used for various technologies and applications, such as environmental sensing, cleaning contaminants and producing electricity (22:27). Finally, we talk about basic research and what makes it important (12:26).

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