Nature: Understanding the bacterial ecology of the sky is an exciting new frontier for natural history, says Noah Fierer of the University of Colorado Boulder. According to a study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, about 20% of the particles found in the upper troposphere consist of bacteria. Researchers at Georgia Tech looked at air samples collected by NASA some 10 km above various bodies of water and the continental US. Despite the harsh environment, including arid winds and UV rays, 314 different types of bacteria were found to thrive there. Although their role is not yet certain, bacteria may seed clouds in the upper atmosphere where there are fewer dust particles, and thus they could influence weather and climate.