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Conceptual model of a chemotrophic microbial community


Second-year IGERT students assembled a draft microbial community network model as part of their final project in our year-long course (6 credits) in geobiological systems. The biochemical network model was designed to represent a high-temperature acidophilic Fe-oxide microbial mat community from Yellowstone National Park (YNP). This microbial system is thought to be driven by energy available from the oxidation of iron, and fixation of carbon dioxide by autotrophic members of the community (Figure 1). Oxygen flux to the mat is thought to be the predominant system-defining variable and is required for primary production coupled to Fe oxidation. Biomass produced by autotrophic members of the community is then utilized by a heterotrophic guild, comprised of two-three organisms with capabilities to degrade protein and other constituents present in microbial biomass. Modeling approaches such as that developed here are extremely useful for testing possible modes of microbial interactions in mixed communities.

Address Goals

One of the best ways to train students to be interdisciplinary is to engage them in productive activities that are interdisciplinary. The full-year IGERT course in geobiological systems was designed to promote team building, synergistic overlap among disciplines, and productive outcomes (e.g. publications focused on modeling microbial community interactions).