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Biodiversity & Ecology

Improved management of geothermal ecosystems through monitoring, characterising and understanding microbiology, macrobiology and thermal vegetation and their interactions with the physicochemical environment.

Research Collaborators: Golder Associates, Victoria University of Wellington, IRL

Task 1: Microbial Ecology

  • Geothermal soils/ hot springs screened for microbial diversity and ecosystem function
  • Time-based microbial surveys initiated in candidate pools
  • Genomes of two candidate thermophiles strains sequenced
  • Microbial database established
  • Novel thermophilic microbial strains characterised
  • Methodology for genomic extraction from difficult systems (mud pots, very low pH, high salinity)
  • Thermodynamics and microbial diversity linked and used to define microbial ecology of a target spring
  • Methodology for metatranscriptomic analysis of geothermal systems developed, and at least two metatranscriptomes sequenced and compared to determine function
  • Methodology developed to describe geothermal microbial ecology, to include diversity, physicochemical parameters, functional diversity and possibly the use of metatranscriptomics
  • GIS-based database designed that incorporates geochemistry, geophysics and geomicrobiology
  • Terrestrial microbial ecology methodologies applied to hydrothermal systems in TVZ lake systems: e.g. Lake Rotomahana, Taupo, Rotorua

Task 2: Biodiscovery

  • Relationships further developed with industry and research partners to add value to extremophiles culture collection
  • Metabolism for lignin hydrolysis by thermophilic anaerobes determined
  • Suitable cellulolytic enzymes for a biofuels industry
  • Selected strains in the extremophiles culture collection for targeted bioactives screened with research partners

Task 3: Thermal macrobiology

  • ‘Remote mapping’ compared with ground-based transect mapping of vegetation height changes
  • Colonisation experiments undertaken at Waikitie and Waimangu
  • Geothermal ecosystem educational booklets
  • Thermal vegetation monitored at selected thermal areas and relationships investigated