Earlier this August, we participated in UW Trout Lake Station’s open house, an opportunity for members of the public to check out the research happening on station. We used Kaela’s microbial fuel cells (aka bog batteries) to demonstrate one strange and cool method of energy generation in the bog lakes. Some bacteria, such as the well-studied Geobacter, can perform “extracellular electron transfer,” where they can take electrons directly from electron-rich molecules when needed and transfer their excess electrons outside the cell, potentially even to other microbes. We’ve suspected that bacteria in Trout Bog could perform this process based on genes observed in our DNA time series, but needed to prove that it was actually occurring in the environment. Kaela’s fuel cells did produce a current, indicating that extracellular electron transfer is occurring in the water column of Trout Bog! (Even though it was only a few microamps, that’s still a lot of energy to a microbe).
Visitors got to check out the fuel cells at the open house, and we were interviewed by Minocqua’s Lakeland Times as part of their article on research at UW Trout Lake Station. You can check it out here!