Base cations (Na, K, Ca, Mg) are common elements in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Numerous human activities increase base cations in catchment soils and surface waters, including: irrigation waters, deicing salts, concrete dissolution (Ca), liming and fertilizers (K, Ca & Mg), acid rain depletion and recovery (Ca), surface mining (Ca), wastewater effluent (Ca, Na), and flooding and salt water intrusion (Na). Large increases in total salt concentration (salinity) is a known driver of aquatic biogeochemistry and ecology, as well as microbial population and community structure. The subtle effects of specific base cations at low concentrations are poorly understood. If specific base cations appreciably alter freshwater biogeochemistry and underlying microbial communities at low salinities, then they could be an unrecognized driver of ecosystems.
Base cations as drivers of microbial ecology in freshwater systems: Implications for water quality management and ecosystem resilience
The goal of this project is to determine if base cations directly alter the microbial community structure and persistence of fecal indicator bacteria in aquatic ecosystems. Using laboratory mesocosms , we will quantify the effects of individual base cations on: 1) the total microbial community structure in aquatic systems, and 2) the persistence of different populations of water quality indicator bacteria. This project is done in collaboration with Drs. Brian Badgley, Bryan Brown, and Leigh-Anne Krometis and funded by the Institute for Critical and Technology and Applied Science @ Virginia Tech.
***WE ARE IN SEARCH OF A PHD LEVEL GRADUATE STUDENT FOR THIS PROJECT. EMAIL IF INTERESTED (STEELEM@VT.EDU)***
PhD Position: Aquatic ecology/microbiology
The Steele and Badgley Labs are looking to fill a funded PhD assistantship in aquatic microbial ecology. The project investigates the effects of low-concentrations of salts on microbial community structure and the persistence of fecal indicator bacteria in stream ecosystems. The student will be co-advised by Drs. Meredith Steele and Brian Badgley. Preference will be given to students with prior research experience in microbiology or aquatic ecosystems. Interested candidates should email Dr. Steele (firstname.lastname@example.org) with their transcripts (unofficial is fine), GRE scores, a statement of research interests, experience, and career goals, and a resume or CV. Review of applicants will begin immediately. Anticipated start date is Summer or Fall 2017. For more information on Dr. Badgley’s lab, please see: http://badgleylab.org/. For more information on Dr. Steele’s lab please see: http://steelelab.weebly.com.