MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Researchers from Ohio State and West Virginia universities have won a combined $2 million grant to study microbial biodiversity in underground shale-gas formations.
The bulk of the National Science Foundation award, $1.65 million, goes to Ohio State.
Starting in January, scientists will take core samples to study a rarely examined habitat: kilometer-deep black shale.
That ecosystem's biodiversity could be at risk from the rapid growth of deep gas drilling.
WVU gets $351,000 to study chemical and isotopic biomarkers that microorganisms leave behind during their growth.
Researchers say their work is the first of its kind.
They say it's important to understand the microorganisms living in the shale because it has implications for current and past life on our planet. It also could help indicate when manmade changes occur.