Growing up in rural Iowa, Bruce spent summers with his family in the National Parks, deepening his love for wilderness, rocks and fossils, and for the mysteries of geological time. During his college summers he surveyed National Forest boundaries in Colorado, where he was inspired by vast natural settings and the imperative to preserve them. Degrees in Geology from Bradley University, the University of Iowa, the University of Chicago, and Stony Brook University, were followed by postdoctoral research at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the University of California Berkeley, and the NASA Ames Research Center.
His hunt for biosignatures led to his first scientific work in Yellowstone in 1996. Joining the faculty of the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign in 1997, he was greatly influenced by Professors Carl Woese and Abigail Salyers. As pioneers in microbiology, their guidance, support and generosity made possible Bruce’s integration of molecular microbiology with geology as a means to study the co-evolution of life and the Earth. As a Professor in Geology, Microbiology, and the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, he serves as Director of the Roy J. Carver Biotechnology Center.
His integration of research and teaching focuses on hot springs, coral reefs, subsurface hydrocarbons, Roman aqueducts, and human kidney stones, and has included bringing thousands of students into the field around the world. Bruce first met Tom at Mammoth in the winter of 2008, when the National Park Service asked Tom to photograph his fieldwork. This chance encounter began an extraordinary friendship founded on a passion for wilderness that has led to this book.