Judges’ Queries and Presenter’s Replies

  • May 20, 2013 | 06:37 p.m.

    Hello,
    Very interesting question and approach. My question centers around connections between microbial communities and environmental variation. Was there any relationship between the presence or abundance of complete versus incomplete denitrifiers and dentrification rates or environmental attributes?
    Thank you,
    Catherine

  • Icon for: Constance Roco

    Constance Roco

    Co-Presenter
    May 21, 2013 | 08:20 a.m.

    Hello Catherine-
    Excellent question, as this is exactly what I am looking into for the rest of my dissertation research. While I have currently been working with pure culture isolates in the lab, which has helped me get to this hypothesis of modular denitrifiers, my next step is to move up to the microbial community and ecosystem scale to see if microbial modularity could affect denitrification kinetics or whether soil biophysical properties are more of a driving factor. Lauren and I are currently working at her sites near Ithaca, NY which show variable nitrous oxide fluxes to see whether the microbial communities vary, especially in regard to the active communities with the nitrous oxide reductase gene. Preliminary sampling has indicated differences in the bacterial communities that harbor the the nitrous oxide reductase gene, but more intensive research will occur this summer and fall. Thanks for your question!
    -Armanda

  • May 23, 2013 | 01:15 p.m.

    Thank you, Constance.
    Catherine

  • May 21, 2013 | 06:17 p.m.

    Hello: I am really impressed by how your team is integrating the different scales of the problem. Looking at the graph on your poster that shows the modeled versus observed denitrification, can you explain what is causing prediction of denitrification in cases where zero denitrification is observed and how you might correct this over-prediction? Thank-you.

  • Icon for: Janet Barclay

    Janet Barclay

    Co-Presenter
    May 22, 2013 | 09:42 a.m.

    Hello Patricia,
    Thanks for your great question! From what I’ve seen in the modeled results and the observed measurements, I think the over-prediction is a product of a couple factors. Our observed measurements were made using the push-pull method that Lauren is using for the Landscape Scale measurements, which quantifies denitrification in the saturated zone and overlooks denitrification in the partially saturated regions. This bias occasionally leads to an underestimation in the observed values. When I look at the data points with zero observed denitrification, there is nothing anomalous in the factors we currently consider that explains why the observed rate was zero. Our hope is that as we gain a better understanding of the microbial and environmental drivers of denitrification, our models will reflect more accurately what we see in the landscape. Thanks for your question! Please let me know if you would like more information.
    - Janet

  • May 21, 2013 | 07:09 p.m.

    Hello: Great research topic, interesting video, good narration! However, I have some questions: are you measuring other field parameters in addition to temperature and groundwater flow? In adition, are you measuring the water chemistry, including the concentration of major anions and cations? Also, do you take into account the types of soil present in different sampling locations? Thank you.

  • Icon for: Lauren McPhillips

    Lauren McPhillips

    Presenter
    May 21, 2013 | 10:20 p.m.

    Hello Liliana-
    Thanks very much for your feedback! We highlighted temperature and groundwater flow in the discussion of the landscape scale measurements because those were the most important drivers of denitrification at these riparian study sites where I have most recently been working. However, we did measure many other environmental parameters that could have an influence on denitrification, such as dissolved organic carbon, dissolved oxygen, ambient nitrate, ammonium, and a suite of cations including iron. We didn’t discuss these in depth on the poster since they were not the primary drivers for the patterns observed at these riparian sites, where dissolved organic carbon was consistently high and thus didn’t appear to be limiting and the saturated conditions led to chronically low dissolved oxygen at all sites. At another denitrification research site which includes more upland landscape, a fellow graduate student measured all of these environmental parameters (dissolved carbon, dissolved oxygen, nitrate, temperature, etc), and some of the resulting relationships were included in Janet’s denitrification model. Regarding soil, the main way that we factor in influences from differing soil types is by also quantifying soil carbon along the soil profile at each site.
    Soil carbon is additionally incorporated into Janet’s model. Thanks again for your questions, and please let me know if you would like any clarification.

    -Lauren

  • Icon for: J Yeakley

    J Yeakley

    Faculty
    May 21, 2013 | 11:34 p.m.

    Hi all. Very nice, well integrated presentation. All three studies appear to have promise. My question concerns how you plan to scale up the microbial and plot level studies into the landscape hydrology model? Are there specific mechanisms in the landscape model that are being informed by the finer scale studies? Thanks, Alan

  • Icon for: Lauren McPhillips

    Lauren McPhillips

    Presenter
    May 22, 2013 | 08:25 a.m.

    Hello Alan-
    Thanks for the questions about how we’re specifically integrating our cross-scale work- it’s certainly a complicated task. Janet’s landscape denitrification model incorporates several environmental variables that are measured in the plot-scale studies that are considered to influence denitrification- dissolved organic carbon, ambient nitrate, temperature, soil carbon, pH, and soil moisture. For the finer scale, Armanda has primarily been working with pure culture isolates in the lab at this point, exploring what genes from the denitrification pathway different isolates have. This summer and fall, Armanda will begin to quantify the various denitrification genes in the environment (both at the riparian research site and other research sites) along with measurements of environmental variables such as pH, dissolved oxygen, dissolved carbon, as well as production of denitrification gases. Her main question is whether or not the the abundance of genes controlling various parts of denitrification and the active bacterial community are the primary limiting factor controlling observed denitrification patterns, or whether it’s more the environmental variables that are simply controlling denitrification. If we find that there are fundamental differences in microbial communities and denitrification gene abundance between sites, we will begin to try to incorporate these dynamics directly into the landscape model as well.
    Thanks for your question,
    Lauren

  • Further posting is closed as the competition has ended.

Poster Discussion

  • Icon for: Tony Reames

    Tony Reames

    Trainee
    May 23, 2013 | 12:32 a.m.

    I’m always interested in research that seeks to improve climate prediction models. Great job!

  • Icon for: Lauren McPhillips

    Lauren McPhillips

    Presenter
    May 23, 2013 | 07:46 a.m.

    Thanks very much for the kind words, Tony!

  • Icon for: Jake Beam

    Jake Beam

    Trainee
    May 23, 2013 | 06:59 p.m.

    Hi Lauren, Janet, and Armanda,
    Very interesting and challenging project! I enjoyed your video and poster, very informative. I think this project represents a major step forward for the field of microbial ecology as you are attempting to scale landscape microbial processes beyond locales, which is very commendable!
    I do have one question though. Why limit NOx emissions to denitrifiers alone with the recent evidence of archaeal nitrification that can produce NOx species as a by-product in the ammonia oxidation pathway (see Santoro et al., 2011, Science)?

  • Icon for: Constance Roco

    Constance Roco

    Co-Presenter
    May 23, 2013 | 07:31 p.m.

    Hi Jake,
    Thanks for the question. First off, ammonia oxidation by archaea is usually found in marine ecosystems. Our study is on freshwater groundwater fluxes and therefore we are focusing on bacterial denitrifiers. However, you bring up a good point and there are other processes that can produce nitrous oxide (nitrification, ammonia oxidation). Therefore, in my method I am going to be sequencing total messengerRNA (mRNA) from the samples which will allow me to look at all the genes that are active during time of sampling. Through this method I will be able to see which pathway is turned on (be it denitrification, nitrification or maybe even ammonia oxidation) in the microbial community and therefore contributing to the nitrous oxide fluxes seen at the time of sampling. Thanks for bringing this up, it’s always good to think outside the box!
    ~Armanda

  • Further posting is closed as the competition has ended.

  1. Lauren McPhillips
  2. /igert2013/to_client?target=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.igert.org%2Fprofiles%2F5242
  3. Graduate Student
  4. Presenter’s IGERT
  5. /igert2013/to_client?target=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.igert.org%2Fprojects%2F269
  6. Cornell
  1. Janet Barclay
  2. /igert2013/to_client?target=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.igert.org%2Fprofiles%2F5436
  3. Graduate Student
  4. Presenter’s IGERT
  5. /igert2013/to_client?target=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.igert.org%2Fprojects%2F269
  6. Cornell
  1. Constance Roco
  2. /igert2013/to_client?target=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.igert.org%2Fprofiles%2F5288
  3. Graduate Student
  4. Presenter’s IGERT
  5. /igert2013/to_client?target=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.igert.org%2Fprojects%2F269
  6. Cornell
Judges’
Choice

Creating a bridge from microbiology to modeling: Improving our capabilities to understand nitrous oxide dynamics on multiple scales and create better climate models for the future

Climate change has the potential to have impacts on essentially every ecosystem and community on the planet. In order to best predict and prepare for these impacts, scientists are working hard to create global models that can predict future climate. Amongst the different models, there is still a large variation in predictions, in part due to large uncertainties in the controls and dynamics of certain greenhouse gases. Gases like methane and nitrous oxide create a stronger greenhouse gas effect than carbon dioxide and are also being influenced by human activities; yet there’s still a lot that we don’t know about their dynamics. A major reason for this is that these gases are generally created or taken up by microbes, but yet we ultimately need to scale the dynamics of these gases up to a global scale! Here at Cornell the goal of our IGERT is to bring together graduate students and faculty working on these different scales, from microbial scale to the landscape to the globe, to improve our ability to model these greenhouse gases, and thus better predict climate change. Our video and poster here present research that we have been working on to better understand fluxes of nitrous oxide. Denitrification is the dominant process responsible for creation of nitrous oxide and involves a complex microbial pathway regulated by many environmental factors; thus we are trying to better understand it using a combination of microbial research, measurements made on a local farm, and landscape modeling.