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K-State Today

October 3, 2023

New open textbook highlights importance of microbiology for earth scientists

Submitted by Matthew Kirk

A new textbook, "Microbiology for Earth Scientists," was recently published by Matthew Kirk, an associate professor in the geology department. 

The book was published via Kansas State University's open-access digital press, New Prairie Press, and is thus freely available to all. Its main aims are to introduce students in geology and related fields to microbiology and show them its importance to the function of the earth system and some of our most pressing environmental concerns, including connections to water quality and climate change.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part provides a summary of the properties of microorganisms and the reactions they drive forward in natural environments. Part two considers ways that environments influence the distributions and activities of microbial populations, including chapters on thermodynamic, kinetic and biological controls. Part three examines the impacts of microorganisms on their environments, with chapters focused on impacts to the lithosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere.

The target audience for the book is earth and environmental science students, though portions of the book may be useful for anyone who seeks to learn more about environmental microbiology.

Funding for the book was provided by the K-State Open and Alternative Textbook Initiative. In addition, Kirk's effort to produce the book also benefitted from assistance provided by K-State librarians Gwen Sibley and Carolyn Jackson, as well as research funding provided by the Kansas NSF EPSCoR microbiomes project and the NSF Geobiology and Low-Temperature Geochemistry program.

"Microbiology for Earth Scientists" can be downloaded as a PDF from the New Prairie Press website.