Genome resolved metagenomics is also being applied to investigate the microbial ecology of freshwater cyanobacterial mats. Cyanobacteria can play important roles in freshwater ecosystems as hotspots for primary production and nutrient cycling, and as foundational members of aquatic food-webs. Some cyanobacteria also produce toxins which negatively impact water quality and aquatic organisms, and can have strong impacts on human and community health.
We are investigating the biodiversity and biogeography of Microcoleus species that inhabit the Eel River watershed in Northern California. Each summer Microcoleus spp. grow on the cobbles of the river bed forming mats that can be several square meters in size. With draft genomes assembled from our metagenomic methods, we can investigate the genomic content and organization of these organisms. We are interested in how spatial distances and environmental variation across the watershed affect the Microcoleus genomes and gene flow between strains and species. We are pairing the collection of Microcoleus samples from across the watershed with manipulative field experiments to understand how these organisms respond genetically and physiologically to different environmental conditions. This work is funded by an NSF Division of Environmental Biology grant, and experimental work was performed at the Angelo Coast Range Reserve.