Metagenomic evaluation of the caddisfly-associated microbiome and its implications for nutrient cycling in montane streams

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Pryor, Chloe
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Anthropogenic excess nitrogen in the environment has many negative impacts on environmental and human health, including eutrophication, pollution, and loss of biodiversity. River systems carry the burden of regulating this phenomenon via nutrient transport and cycling processes that are not well understood. An ongoing project at Montana State University explores the impact of caddisflies in stream biogeochemistry by obstructing interstitial spaces with the silk structures that they create. This obstruction allows for increased time for metabolic processes as well as stronger growth of biofilms. We hypothesize that caddisflies also influence stream chemistry by serving as habitats for a unique microbiome. To explore this, we collected samples of caddisflies, their silk nets and retreats, and swabs of nearby rocks from a mountain stream in Montana, sequenced the microbial genetic material to generate metagenomes, and performed comparative metagenomics. Comparisons of the community structure and the functional genes of the metagenomes indicated clustering by sample type, supporting the hypothesis that the caddisfly-associated microbiome was dissimilar from the other stream microbiomes. Future steps could include studies that replicate these findings, explorations of possibly enriched metabolic processes in the caddisfly-associated microbiome, and investigations of possible changes in stream metabolism due to current and future environmental stressors.
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