Snow Microbiome?


If you're on the East Coast and watching your child play in the snow and maybe eat a taste or two (or many), you might think to yourself, as any employee of CosmosID would do, “How much bacteria is in that snow? Is there a snow microbiome?” Well, it turns out that there might be. A paper from PLOS ONE on the snow surface microbiome in Antarctica says, basically, that the dominant bacteria found in the Antarctic snow environment are marine Proteobacteria, likely from coastal locations, Bacteriodetes (found in our guts and many other places and associated with leanness and obesity) and Cyanobacteria (found in almost every land and water habitat). Some of these bacteria could be from airborne particles but in the case of the consistently snowy Antarctica, they found evidence that these bacteria are a stable and active part of the microbial community.  

In an article from 2014 about the importance of the microbial community in glaciers and their response to climate change, they calculated the number of microbes living in the surface of glaciers across the world and found numbers similar to those found in other habitats such as the surface of the ocean. While this would likely be a more active microbial environment than that of fresh snow, it is interesting to see that they found such large numbers of bacteria in the glacial environment.

So yes, there are likely some bacteria in snow, probably from airborne sources, but further study would be needed to really get a full picture. Sounds like something Chris Mason might want to tackle.