The Great Boiling Spring in Nevada is host to a two-member water-borne microbial community and a sediment community, both of which contain uncultured representatives. Microbes from the sediment metagenome, for example, are poised to make a contribution to the DOE JGI’s ongoing Genomic Encyclopedia of Bacteria and Archaea project. This metagenomic project focuses on learning more about these biological “dark matter” in both the sediment sand the waters of the Springs, in particular to identify microbes which may have bioenergy and carbon cycling applications.
As suggested by its name, the Great Boiling Spring is host to microbes that can tolerate high temperature while breaking down photosynthetic mats and plant material, making the enzymes in these organisms are of interest to biofuels researchers. One of the hurdles in commercializing biofuel production is that the treatment process requires the application of high temperatures to break down complex biomass, which in turn requires thermostable cellulases and other important enzyme families. The Springs are also a source of microorganisms that rely on hydrogen as an energy source, providing researchers with a potential source of hydrogenases that may be useful in tapping hydrogen as an alternative energy source.
Finally, since the microbial communities in the Spings are adapted to high-temperature and low-nutrient environments, they are of interest to carbon cycle researchers who want to know more about their carbon fixation capabilities.
Principal Investigators: Brian Hedlund, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Program: CSP 2010