Montana State University

Yellowstone microbial discoveries to be discussed during Feb. 20 Cafe Scientifique in Bozeman

February 10, 2014 -- MSU News Service

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Tel: (406) 994-4571

BOZEMAN –“Unknown Yellowstone: Microbial Discoveries and Biotech Applications” will be the focus of the Café Scientifique to be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20, in the Baxter Ballroom in downtown Bozeman. 

The speaker will be Brent Peyton, director of the Thermal Biology Institute and professor of chemical and biological engineering at Montana State University.  In this talk, Peyton will discuss the microbial side of Yellowstone and the ongoing research to discover new organisms and utilize them in new biotechnology applications.

Though relatively small in size, thermal ecosystems like the hot springs of Yellowstone contain massive numbers of heat-loving microorganisms called thermophiles, Peyton says. To survive in these extreme conditions, these hardy organisms have developed unusual properties that may be harnessed for innovative biotechnology applications. Thermal environments have been a source of many beneficial microorganisms and bioproducts. For example, the biotechnology revolution, such as the human genome project and solving crimes through DNA analysis, was made possible by the discovery of a thermostable enzyme (Taq polymerase) from Yellowstone. Interestingly, most of these heat-loving microorganisms have never been grown in a lab, and thousands lie waiting to be discovered.

Peyton is nationally and internationally recognized for his scholarly contributions and activities in the field of bioengineering for renewable bioenergy and environmental biorestoration.  He has published more than 95 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters on these topics.  Since his return to MSU in 2005, Brent has built a successful research and teaching program, and his laboratory supports undergraduate student researchers, as well as postdoctoral fellows and graduate students.  His research has been funded by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy, as well as by the state of Montana and private industry. In 2011, he received MSU’s prestigious Wiley award for meritorious research, and he recently received MSU’s 2014 award for meritorious science/technology transfer.

Café Scientifique, co-sponsored by Montana's INBRE and COBRE programs, provides a relaxed setting for people to learn about current scientific topics. The concept started in England in 1998 and has spread to a handful of locations in the United States. Following a short presentation by a scientific expert, the majority of time is reserved for questions, answers and lively discussion.

Montana INBRE and COBRE are each an Institutional Development Award (IDeA) from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under grant numbers P20GM103474 (INBRE) and GM103500 (COBRE). 

This event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Laurie Howell at (406) 994-7531 or For more information about the Café Scientifique concept, check the Web at   

Evelyn Boswell, (406) 994-5135 or