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Gut of Western Australia Termites May Be Key in Biofuel Development

WA Termites 300x194 Gut of Western Australia Termites May Be Key in Biofuel DevelopmentResearch completed by University of Western Australia honors student, Ghislaine Small, of the ARC Centre of Excellence in Planet Energy Biology has identified the gut of a Western Australia termite might be used in the development of biofuels.

Small scoured Shenton Park and Perth Hills and analyzed the bacteria she found in their digestive systems. Small intentionally studied two termite species whose gut bacteria had not previously been examined. She said in one termite species found only in WA, Tumulitermes westraliensis, more than half the gut was made up of unknown species.

Amazingly, a termite gut might contain several hundred species of bacteria, and Small and other researchers are interested in testing enzymes in the bacteria with an eye on using them in biofuel production.

Kate Howell, Small’s advisor on the project, said this may one day address a primary concern in the biofuel industry – how to efficiently break down plant material.

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Leigh is a Senior Technical Communicator working in the energy sector in Dallas, Texas. Prior to her work in the energy industry, Leigh spent years specializing in life saving engineering projects for the US Department of Defense. In her spare time, Leigh pursues her passions of environmental awareness, vegan baking, dog rescue, and defending the place of art, literature, and music in a world that values science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.