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This transcript has been edited and condensed for clarity.

At a prescribed burn site in rural Idaho, a team of fire scientists are using a tricked-out drone to hunt for life in the smoke. What they discover could have big implications for our world, and our health. 

Inside the cloud of smoke, amid all the dust and ash, are hundreds, or even thousands, of different bacteria and fungi. The scientists studying them are part of an entirely new field of research: Pyroaerobiology, the study of life in smoke.

The field is so new that it didn’t exist just a few years ago. Back then, there was only one published study on this subject. And it came from a high school science fair project.

Sarah Mims lives in San Antonio, Texas. And back in high school, she made an accidental discovery in her backyard. She’d set out microscope slides, trying to find dust that had traveled across the world. But instead, she found something unexpected.

“When I was looking at the slides under the microscope, there were a large number of just s... Read more

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