Collection Provides Supply for "Taxonomical
By Rosalie Marion
January 22, 2010
Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
maintains some of the world's largest publicly accessible collections of
microbes that are used to benefit agricultural sciences. But some smaller ARS
collections are critical to the day-to-day work of career scientists working at
specific locations. Such is the case of the Fungal Culture Collection housed at
Southern Regional Research Center (SRRC) in New Orleans, La.
For nearly 30 years, the collections 1,700 strains have been curated
Klich. She chose a method of preserving the collection that essentially is
the closest thing to putting microbes into suspended animation. That strategy
came in handy when widespread mold species needed to be identified after
To preserve various fungi over time, Klich and colleagues actually
"freeze-dry" tiny amounts of a fungal species.
In a small vacuum tube, water is removed from previously frozen fungi. That
"suspends" the life of the live organism because the fungi can stay
in that condition for upwards of 40 or 50 years. The resulting white pellets
can be resuspended at any time by simply immersing the pellet in a liquid and
placing the suspension on a petri dish containing agar. When the mold grows
out, it comes back to life, according to Klich.
Another way the team could have chosen to preserve the live collection was
to freeze them in liquid nitrogen. But the entire collection would have been
lost during Hurricane Katrina if that method had been used, because the liquid
nitrogen would have melted over time in the long- evacuated building.
Upon return to the SRRC after the natural disaster, Klich found the
collection safe and sound. She then turned her attention to helping other
agencies identify potentially dangerous mold species that occurred as a result
of the water damage from the storm.
more about this and other collections in the January 2010 issue of
Agricultural Research magazine.
ARS is the principal intramural scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.