For several decades, researchers have studied the microbial mat communities in hot springs at Yellowstone National Park. They’ve identified the dominant species in these communities and also found previously-unknown inhabitants of these mats that use light as an energy source. The finding is significant because bioenergy researchers are increasingly tapping microbial communities that perform photosynthesis for biofuel applications. Previous collaborations between researchers working on Yellowstone microbial communities and the DOE JGI have resulted in sequencing and identification of several species in these mats. This project focuses on understanding the interactions between the species that perform photosynthesis in the microbial mat communities and the species that do not perform photosynthesis. One area of study focuses on how the microbial mat communities have adapted to the physical, biological and chemical characteristics of their environment and how their natural ability to source energy from light can be harnessed to produce alternative transportation fuels and other compounds important to industry. Another research topic involves pinpointing each species’ ability to capture carbon, and the pathways involved in these processes.
Principal Investigators: David Ward, Montana State University
Program: CSP 2010