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Chapter 1 : Introduction to Environmental Microbiology
The origin of scientific research in environmental microbiology rests in the observations of Antony van Leeuwenhoek that were published in 1677. During the intervening centuries, the expansion of our knowledge regarding environmental microorganisms has been based on increasingly detailed observations and experimentation, in which we have been aided by advancements in microscopy and the development of biochemical and mathematical tools. Microorganisms literally cover our planet, and can be found as deep as several kilometers both in glacial ice sheets and in bedrock. The microorganisms chemically interact with their physical environment, and their most notable effect has been the creation of an oxidizing atmosphere on this planet. By way of these chemical interactions, microbes remain crucial to the biogeochemical cycling which supports the continuation of life on our planet, turning over the elements that represent the basic ingredients of life such as carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulfur. Microorganisms are also used as tools to help us intentionally degrade both natural and anthropogenic materials in wastewater digestors, composters, landfills, natural terrestrial environments, and natural or artificial aquatic environments. The subject area of microbially mediated chemical transformations bridges the hydrosphere and lithosphere due to the relatedness of the involved microbial metabolic processes, which often are performed by either the same or related genera of organisms.