Researchers in ENIGMA’s Field Microbiology component work with microbial communities in the environment to investigate how biological structure and function relate to critical biochemical conditions/changes, such as the immobilization of toxic metals and the flow of carbon and nitrogen. The goal is to identify key microbial populations and determine the community events and mechanisms of these populations that impact and control environmental activities of interest, ultimately predicting how perturbations of the environment may affect community structure. From these results, models will be developed using various bioinformatic tools (e.g., AdaptML, random matrix theory, multivariate statistics) that can be applied to microbial populations overlaid with geochemical parameters and engineering controls.
Current efforts include optimizing omics protocols for environmental samples, and designing efficient field sampling studies that maximize the geochemical diversity of study sites, and enhance the associations between microbial communities and key geochemical features. To this end, researchers in ENIGMA’s Field Microbiology component have developed a Monte Carlo search algorithm to optimize site selection for geochemical diversity. A search is now underway for 100 wells where metagenomic analyses can be performed in cooperation with a relevant existing program at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.