Our Chief Scientist, Craig Moyer, is here with his Western Washington University lab group—Heather Fullerton (post-doc,) Kelsey Jesser (MS student), and Kevin Hager (undergrad)—to analyze Zeta DNA.
In Craig’s words, the Moyer Lab’s objectives for this cruise are all about microbial ecology across gradients—in particular, thermal and chemical gradients. How do microbial mat communities vary genetically with increasing distance from a hydrothermal vent, and with increasing depth in the interior of the mat? To answer these questions, the Moyer Lab is collecting mat samples (to be paired with temperature and electrochemical measurements) at fine spatial scales.
Why fine-scale sampling? A risk in ecological studies is that preconceived sampling schemes can dictate the scale of community variability that we observe (e.g., if we chose to sample every 50 m, we could only see variability expressed at that scale or coarser—we might miss the natural scale of variability within the community). Fine-scale sampling helps to ensure that natural variability is more fully captured—or, to paraphrase Craig, it lets the microbes tell us what the scale of variability is.
The Moyer Lab is employing a suite of DNA analyses to investigate their mat samples. Heather is using a “shotgun sequencing” metagenomics approach to look at the Zetas’ functional genes and determine how they vary spatially in the mat community. Kelsey is examining genes that control elemental cycling (e.g., oxygen, carbon, nitrogen).
In addition to mat sampling and DNA analyses, the Moyer lab’s objectives include photomosaic mapping with Sentry and Jason, plus aerial photodocumentation of Jason and elevator deployments using a remote-controlled micro-UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) equipped with a camera.
Stay tuned to hear about what some of the other labs on board are doing.
–Cat Wolner, NSF
Photo credits: Clara Chan (top and 3rd), one of Jason’s cameras (2nd), Cat Wolner (bottom)