AcidopHiles: A Not-So-Basic Life

Stephanie MacPherson

Stephanie MacPherson

There are conditions on the Earth that are completely inhospitable to humans. Macroscopic life forms in these conditions are extremely rare. Microscopic life forms, however, thrive. They are called extremophiles. One subset of extremophile called the acidophile live in acidic environments, at time even more corrosive than battery acid. Acidophiles are microbes, and live together in hugely diverse ecosystems. Each species of acidophile fills a different niche. They survive in high acid environments using a number of methods, including a highly active proton pump, or five-ring structures called hopanoids that are imbedded in the cell membrane, among others. Acidophiles can be applied to many human questions. They are used in the process of bioremediation as applied to acid mine drainage sites. They are also useful in biomining. Because of their ability to flourish in near-otherworldly conditions, they have particular interest in the field of astrobiology, the search for extraterrestrial life.


Stephanie McPherson

About Stephanie McPherson

Thesis: AcidopHiles: A Not-So-Basic Life Stephanie McPherson writes and produces video about science and technology for universities and research institutions around the US. Her work has also appeared across a spectrum of media, including the Boston Globe Magazine, the PBS NOVA website and the national radio show Living on Earth. She earned her Master’s degree in Science Writing from MIT in 2011 and has since written about everything from diabetes to 3D printers in space. She also writes mystery fiction. Her debut short story was published in The Baker Street Irregulars: The Game is Afoot in April 2018.


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