, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp 135–140 | Cite as

Terrestrial Microorganisms at an Altitude of 20,000 m in Earth's Atmosphere

  • Dale W. Griffin


A joint effort between the U.S. Geological Survey's (USGS) Global Desert Dust and NASA's Stratospheric and Cosmic Dust Programs identified culturable microbes from an air sample collected at an altitude of 20,000 m. A total of 4 fungal (Penicillium sp.) and 71 bacteria colony-forming units (70 colonies of Bacillus luciferensis believed to have originated from a single cell collected at altitude and one colony ofBacillus sphaericus) were enumerated, isolated and identified using a morphological key and 16S rDNA sequencing respectively. All of the isolates identified were spore-forming pigmented fungi or bacteria of terrestrial origin and demonstrate that the presence of viable microorganisms in Earth's upper atmosphere may not be uncommon.

bacillus bacteria fungi high-altitude microbiology NASA 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dale W. Griffin
    • 1
  1. 1.United States Geological SurveyCenter for Coastal and Watershed StudiesSt. PetersburgUSA

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