Project description:Accurate estimation of microbial concentrations is necessary to inform many important environmental science and public health decisions and regulations. Critically, widespread misconceptions about laboratory-reported microbial non-detects have led to their erroneous description and handling as "censored" values. This ultimately compromises their interpretation and undermines efforts to describe and model microbial concentrations accurately. Herein, these misconceptions are dispelled by (1) discussing the critical differences between discrete microbial observations and continuous data acquired using analytical chemistry methodologies and (2) demonstrating the bias introduced by statistical approaches tailored for chemistry data and misapplied to discrete microbial data. Notably, these approaches especially preclude the accurate representation of low concentrations and those estimated using microbial methods with low or variable analytical recovery, which can be expected to result in non-detects. Techniques that account for the probabilistic relationship between observed data and underlying microbial concentrations have been widely demonstrated, and their necessity for handling non-detects (in a way which is consistent with the handling of positive observations) is underscored herein. Habitual reporting of raw microbial observations and sample sizes is proposed to facilitate accurate estimation and analysis of microbial concentrations.
Project description:We investigated the interactions between snowpack chemistry, mercury (Hg) contamination and microbial community structure and function in Arctic snow. Snowpack chemistry (inorganic and organic ions) including mercury (Hg) speciation was studied in samples collected during a two-month field study in a high Arctic site, Svalbard, Norway (79 °N). Shifts in microbial community structure were determined by using a 16S rRNA gene phylogenetic microarray. We linked snowpack and meltwater chemistry to changes in microbial community structure by using co-inertia analyses (CIA) and explored changes in community function due to Hg contamination by q-PCR quantification of Hg-resistance genes in metagenomic samples. Based on the CIA, chemical and microbial data were linked (p = 0.006) with bioavailable Hg (BioHg) and methylmercury (MeHg) contributing significantly to the ordination of samples. Mercury was shown to influence community function with increases in merA gene copy numbers at low BioHg levels. Our results show that snowpacks can be considered as dynamic habitats with microbial and chemical components responding rapidly to environmental changes.
Project description:Herein, we present an approach for the rapid, straightforward and economical preparation of a tailored reactor device using three-dimensional (3D) printing, which can be directly linked to a high-resolution electrospray ionisation mass spectrometer (ESI-MS) for real-time, in-line observations. To highlight the potential of the setup, supramolecular coordination chemistry was carried out in the device, with the product of the reactions being recorded continuously and in parallel by ESI-MS. Utilising in-house-programmed computer control, the reactant flow rates and order were carefully controlled and varied, with the changes in the pump inlets being mirrored by the recorded ESI-MS spectra.
Project description:Interactions among microbes and stratification across depths are both believed to be important drivers of microbial communities, though little is known about how microbial associations differ between and across depths. We have monitored the free-living microbial community at the San Pedro Ocean Time-series station, monthly, for a decade, at five different depths: 5?m, the deep chlorophyll maximum layer, 150?m, 500?m and 890?m (just above the sea floor). Here, we introduce microbial association networks that combine data from multiple ocean depths to investigate both within- and between-depth relationships, sometimes time-lagged, among microbes and environmental parameters. The euphotic zone, deep chlorophyll maximum and 890?m depth each contain two negatively correlated 'modules' (groups of many inter-correlated bacteria and environmental conditions) suggesting regular transitions between two contrasting environmental states. Two-thirds of pairwise correlations of bacterial taxa between depths lagged such that changes in the abundance of deeper organisms followed changes in shallower organisms. Taken in conjunction with previous observations of seasonality at 890?m, these trends suggest that planktonic microbial communities throughout the water column are linked to environmental conditions and/or microbial communities in overlying waters. Poorly understood groups including Marine Group A, Nitrospina and AEGEAN-169 clades contained taxa that showed diverse association patterns, suggesting these groups contain multiple ecological species, each shaped by different factors, which we have started to delineate. These observations build upon previous work at this location, lending further credence to the hypothesis that sinking particles and vertically migrating animals transport materials that significantly shape the time-varying patterns of microbial community composition.
Project description:Cheese fermentations involve the growth of complex microbial consortia, which often originate in the processing environment and drive the development of regional product qualities. However, the microbial milieus of cheesemaking facilities are largely unexplored and the true nature of the fermentation-facility relationship remains nebulous. Thus, a high-throughput sequencing approach was employed to investigate the microbial ecosystems of two artisanal cheesemaking plants, with the goal of elucidating how the processing environment influences microbial community assemblages. Results demonstrate that fermentation-associated microbes dominated most surfaces, primarily Debaryomyces and Lactococcus, indicating that establishment of these organisms on processing surfaces may play an important role in microbial transfer, beneficially directing the course of sequential fermentations. Environmental organisms detected in processing environments dominated the surface microbiota of washed-rind cheeses maturing in both facilities, demonstrating the importance of the processing environment for populating cheese microbial communities, even in inoculated cheeses. Spatial diversification within both facilities reflects the functional adaptations of microbial communities inhabiting different surfaces and the existence of facility-specific "house" microbiota, which may play a role in shaping site-specific product characteristics.
Project description:The aim of this study was to assess the microbial diversity associated with Lake Nyos, a lake with an unusual chemistry in Cameroon. Water samples were collected during the dry season on March 2013. Bacterial and archaeal communities were profiled using Polymerase Chain Reaction-Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis (PCR-DGGE) approach of the 16S rRNA gene. The results indicate a stratification of both communities along the water column. Altogether, the physico-chemical data and microbial sequences suggest a close correspondence of the potential microbial functions to the physico-chemical pattern of the lake. We also obtained evidence of a rich microbial diversity likely to include several novel microorganisms of environmental importance in the large unexplored microbial reservoir of Lake Nyos.
Project description:Acidic thermal springs offer ideal environments for studying processes underlying extremophile microbial diversity. We used a carefully designed comparative analysis of acidic thermal springs in Yellowstone National Park to determine how abiotic factors (chemistry and temperature) shape acidophile microbial communities. Small-subunit rRNA gene sequences were PCR amplified, cloned, and sequenced, by using evolutionarily conserved bacterium-specific primers, directly from environmental DNA extracted from Amphitheater Springs and Roaring Mountain sediment samples. Energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, and colorimetric assays were used to analyze sediment chemistry, while an optical emission spectrometer was used to evaluate water chemistry and electronic probes were used to measure the pH, temperature, and E(h) of the spring waters. Phylogenetic-statistical analyses found exceptionally strong correlations between bacterial community composition and sediment mineral chemistry, followed by weaker but significant correlations with temperature gradients. For example, sulfur-rich sediment samples contained a high diversity of uncultured organisms related to Hydrogenobaculum spp., while iron-rich sediments were dominated by uncultured organisms related to a diverse array of gram-positive iron oxidizers. A detailed analysis of redox chemistry indicated that the available energy sources and electron acceptors were sufficient to support the metabolic potential of Hydrogenobaculum spp. and iron oxidizers, respectively. Principal-component analysis found that two factors explained 95% of the genetic diversity, with most of the variance attributable to mineral chemistry and a smaller fraction attributable to temperature.
Project description:Disturbances act as powerful structuring forces on ecosystems. To ask whether environmental microbial communities have capacity to recover after a large disturbance event, we conducted a whole-ecosystem manipulation, during which we imposed an intense disturbance on freshwater microbial communities by artificially mixing a temperate lake during peak summer thermal stratification. We employed environmental sensors and water chemistry analyses to evaluate the physical and chemical responses of the lake, and bar-coded 16S ribosomal RNA gene pyrosequencing and automated ribosomal intergenic spacer analysis (ARISA) to assess the bacterial community responses. The artificial mixing increased mean lake temperature from 14 to 20?°C for seven weeks after mixing ended, and exposed the microorganisms to very different environmental conditions, including increased hypolimnion oxygen and increased epilimnion carbon dioxide concentrations. Though overall ecosystem conditions remained altered (with hypolimnion temperatures elevated from 6 to 20?°C), bacterial communities returned to their pre-manipulation state as some environmental conditions, such as oxygen concentration, recovered. Recovery to pre-disturbance community composition and diversity was observed within 7 (epilimnion) and 11 (hypolimnion) days after mixing. Our results suggest that some microbial communities have capacity to recover after a major disturbance.
Project description:Litter quality and soil environmental conditions are well-studied drivers influencing decomposition rates, but the role played by disturbance legacy, such as fire history, in mediating these drivers is not well understood. Fire history may impact decomposition directly, through changes in soil conditions that impact microbial function, or indirectly, through shifts in plant community composition and litter chemistry. Here, we compared early-stage decomposition rates across longleaf pine forest blocks managed with varying fire frequencies (annual burns, triennial burns, fire-suppression). Using a reciprocal transplant design, we examined how litter chemistry and soil characteristics independently and jointly influenced litter decomposition. We found that both litter chemistry and soil environmental conditions influenced decomposition rates, but only the former was affected by historical fire frequency. Litter from annually burned sites had higher nitrogen content than litter from triennially burned and fire suppression sites, but this was correlated with only a modest increase in decomposition rates. Soil environmental conditions had a larger impact on decomposition than litter chemistry. Across the landscape, decomposition differed more along soil moisture gradients than across fire management regimes. These findings suggest that fire frequency has a limited effect on litter decomposition in this ecosystem, and encourage extending current decomposition frameworks into disturbed systems. However, litter from different species lost different masses due to fire, suggesting that fire may impact decomposition through the preferential combustion of some litter types. Overall, our findings also emphasize the important role of spatial variability in soil environmental conditions, which may be tied to fire frequency across large spatial scales, in driving decomposition rates in this system.