Contributing knowledge

Lake Erie studies reveal microbial diversity

Bouzat, graduate students’ Lake Erie studies reveal microbial diversity

Work by Dr. Juan L. Bouzat, biological sciences, and former graduate students Matt Hoostal and Torey Looft is contributing to the knowledge base about the ecosystem of Lake Erie.

Although some types of bacteria are harmful, helpful bacteria are crucial to the health and survival of the lake and its inhabitants. Threatening that health are organic pollutants and heavy metals such as cadmium, zinc, cobalt and copper.

Bouzat’s team has looked at the distribution across the lake bottom of bacteria that play a role in transforming organic pollutants and heavy metals into nontoxic forms, and how these microbial communities have adapted over time to their environments.

The team has found that genes for heavy metal tolerance have been transferred across genomes of different bacterial species, likely favoring the adaptation of microbial communities to environmental contaminants.

Two papers on microbial diversity and the transfer of genes involved in heavy-metal resistance have been recently published in theJournal of Great Lakes Research and the Journal of Molecular Evolution, Bouzat reports. Both papers have received considerable attention: the microbial diversity paper was highlighted in a press release issued by the International Association of Great Lakes Research, and the heavy-metal paper was featured on the cover of the molecular evolution journal.

“These are good examples of quality research performed by our students at BGSU,” Bouzat said. Both papers involved the research of Hoostal and Looft, both from Bouzat’s lab.

Hoostal received his Ph.D. in biology in December 2012. “Of the five chapters in his dissertation, four have been published in highly regarded scientific journals,” Bouzat said.

Looft completed his master’s degree at BGSU in 2005, continued his graduate studies at Iowa State University and is now an independent research microbiologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He was back at BGSU Sept. 11 to present a talk at the Department of Biological Sciences Seminar Series.

(Posted September 16, 2013 )