Pristine, high-latitude freshwater ecosystems represent some of the last unaltered habitats on the planet. These ecosystems commonly present limited nutrient input and are dominated by microorganisms, commonly presenting very small meso- and macroorganism communities, which translates into relatively simple natural ecosystems with short food-webs. Microorganism communities are regulated by the availability of nutrients (bottom-up control), the activity of predators (top-down control), and viral lysis. The role of the top-down control in these environments appears to be limited and, thus, the ecological role of viruses in these extreme habitats could be greater than in temperate ecosystems. This research project is based on the recognition that due to their relative simplicity, these habitats constitute a unique ecological model to understand the influence of viruses on natural microbial communities and the overall ecosystem. With this background, this research project will make use of Metagenomics and NGS techniques, as well as state-of-the-art computational approaches, to analyze the genetic diversity of viral communities, as well as the structure of viral and microbial communities, in pristine high-latitude freshwater habitats. Instead of merely cataloguing ‘what is there’, these analyses will provide several independent yet complementary pieces of information related to the role of viruses in natural environments. Collectively, the results derived from this research project will give us a wider understanding of the diversity and structure of viral communities, and the complexity of biotic interactions that they establish with the microbial community and the entire ecosystem, improving the state-of-the-art of the field. The proposed transfer of knowledge will complement and enhance the host’s limited knowledge and experience in the use of NGS and novel Metagenomics approaches to study microbial communities, augmenting their ability to produce high-impact science.
Fields of science
Call for proposal
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