MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- 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 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 micro-organisms leave behind during their growth.
Researchers say their work is the first of its kind.
They say it's important to understand the micro-organisms living in the shale because it has implications for current and past life on our planet. It also could help indicate when man-made changes occur.