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Images: Shifting Sands and Bacteria on the Beach

WHOI microbial ecologist Rebecca Gast checks the distances between sample sites on the beach at Duck, N.C., as WHOI physical oceanographer Britt Raubenheimer (red jacket) talks with other colleagues. The researchers took samples of sand from three spots on the beach, from mid-tide up to the high-tide mark, to find out whether the sand harbored DNA from bacteria and whether wind and waves that moved the sand also moved the DNA (and presumably the bacteria). (Photo by Steve Elgar, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Bill Boyd, a senior engineer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, drives a coring tube into the sand as WHOI microbial ecologist Rebecca Gast steadies the tube and WHOI research associate Levi Gorrell looks on. Each tube collected a core of sand about 100 centimeters long. Gast analyzed samples from different depths within each tube for the presence of bacterial DNA. (Photo by Steve Elgar, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

MIT/WHOI Joint Program student Elizabeth Halliday (left) and microbial ecologist Rebecca Gast watch and wait as the tide recedes past their sample sites, marked by pennants. The scientists analyzed core samples from each site for the presence of bacterial DNA and found that sand added to the beach by wind and waves often carried bacterial DNA with it. (Photo by Steve Elgar)

(Illustration by Jack Cook, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)