The current wastewater treatment method, activated sludge, relies on microbes. The microbes in activated sludge are responsible for breaking down compounds in wastewater and converting them to biomass, which is then recycled to start the next batch of wastewater treatment. However, little is known about the types of microbes in activated sludge or the reactions they perform that help or hurt wastewater treatment. This is largely because the organisms in activated sludge cannot be cultured and grown in isolation. Our lab uses molecular techniques such as metagenomics and transcriptomics to learn more about the microbial ecology of wastewater treatment systems, particularly Enhanced Biological Phosphorus Removal (EBPR). Projects include the ecology and evolution of one of the key members of activated sludge, Candidatus Accumulibacter phosphatis, the role of phage in these systems, and reconstructing the metabolisms of uncultured bacteria.
While bacterial communities are an integral part of freshwater ecosystems, their ecology is not well understood. Using non-culture based techniques such as 16S tag sequencing, metagenomics, and single cell sequencing, we seek to learn more about what a normal freshwater community looks like, and how it changes during disturbances such as eutrophication, lake mixing, or land use change. This work is part of two Microbial Observatory locations – Lake Mendota in Madison, WI, and a group of bogs near Minocqua, WI. Investigations using the Microbial Observatory datasets including genome streamlining, bacterial community dynamics, metabolic reconstructions based on genomes from metagenomes, and functional diversity of freshwater.