Cyanobacterial communities in a temperate watershed: Who's there, when they show up, and how climate change will impact them (Webinar)
Ellen Cameron will be sharing insights from her PhD research at the University of Waterloo studying cyanobacterial communities in temperate watersheds.
Join Ellen and the forWater Network on Tuesday June 22, at 12pm ET. Contact Elanor for the webinar link.
Cyanobacteria, a group of potentially toxic photosynthetic bacteria, threaten water quality globally warranting the implementation of monitoring programs for risk management and control. Their distribution in aquatic ecosystems is dynamic and impacted by spatiotemporal factors including water column stratification, oscillatory diurnal migrations via buoyancy regulation and seasonal succession of populations. Although cyanobacteria are characteristically associated with high nutrient systems, increased reports of cyanobacteria in low-nutrient temperate lakes of Ontario suggesting additional factors influencing growth and occurrence requiring further investigation.
In this research, spatiotemporal shifts in cyanobacterial communities were explored to identify the (i) vertical distribution across the water column, (ii) short-term diel trends, and (iii) long-term seasonal trends across three interconnected, oligotrophic lakes in a northern, temperate watershed in Ontario: the Turkey Lakes Watershed. Although the lakes in this study are interconnected, the cyanobacterial communities within them exhibited unique composition and distribution trends impacted by surrounding landscape processes. This complex network of interactions impacting cyanobacterial communities will further be impacted by warming climates with the potential for resurgence of populations earlier in the season.
The unique composition observed in the three lakes of this study underscores the importance of developing system-specific sampling guidelines reflective of physicochemical characteristics of the system and cyanobacterial community structure.
Ellen Cameron's biography
Ellen is an aquatic ecologist who has a specialized research interest in algae. She is interested in the application of modern molecular techniques to explore ecosystem dynamics. Ellen holds a BSc in Biology from the University of Waterloo. She completed her MSc in Molecular Science from Ryerson University where her research focused on the impact of warming water temperatures on fatty acid composition in freshwater diatoms.
Ellen is currently completing her PhD at the University of Waterloo in Biology and the Collaborative Water Program. Upon completion of her PhD, she will begin a postdoctoral fellowship at European Molecular Biology Laboratory - European Bioinformatics Institute and the Wellcome Sanger Institute where she will continue to build her molecular and bioinformatic skills while working with lichens.
From coast to coast: How cyanobacterial communities in the Atlantic and Pacific Maritime ecozones impact water quality and treatability (Webinar)
Tim Shardlow, recently graduated Master's student from the University of Waterloo, will discuss his research at an upcoming webinar with the forWater Network.
Join the webinar on June 9th at 1pm, ET. Email Elanor for the webinar link.
Healthy forested watersheds naturally provide high quality drinking water to communities. However, the integrity and quality of these water sources may be threatened by climate change-exacerbated disturbances which can lead to increased delivery of nutrients to receiving waters and increase in water temperatures. This can result in the proliferation of cyanobacteria that may threaten water quality through the production of toxins as well as taste and odour compounds. Hence, it is important to detect the presence of potentially harmful cyanobacteria prior to any associated water quality shifts. In this study, a synoptic field sampling campaign was conducted in summer and fall in 2019 and involved the collection of monthly water samples from the Pockwock Lake watershed (NS), the Comox Lake watershed (BC), and the Leech River and Sooke River watersheds (BC). To evaluate the composition and relative abundance of cyanobacteria, bacterial DNA was extracted from water samples for 16S rRNA gene sequencing and assigned taxonomy computationally in QIIME2 using a SILVA classifier and resulting cyanobacteria amplicon sequence variants (ASV) were analyzed using the R package mirlyn.
Lakes within the same watershed typically contained similar communities, though monthly variations in diversity were observed in some lakes. Most cyanobacteria ASVs were assigned to Cyanobium PCC-6307 and Rhabdogloea smithii SAG 47.91; across all samples, the relative abundance of reads from these genera was 51% and 42%, respectively. Other genera represented in the samples included cyanobacteria strains known to form blooms and produce geosmin, a terpene with an earthy odour, and microcystin, a hepatotoxin. Findings from this study provide insights into the presence of cyanobacteria in water resources relied upon as drinking water supplies and underscores some potential commonalities for their potential to deteriorate water quality and challenge drinking water treatability in diverse forested watersheds in Canada.
Tim Shardlow's Biography
Tim is an environmental microbiologist specializing on the prevalence and distribution of cyanobacteria within water sources. While completing his BSc at the University of Waterloo, Tim conducted a senior honours thesis with Dr. Kirsten Müller which involved analyzing cyanobacterial communities in sediment from a drinking water reservoir. This inspired Tim to pursue being a water scientist as he continued working with Dr. Kirsten Müller as a graduate student. His Master’s research involved characterizing cyanobacterial communities from forested watersheds in the Atlantic and Pacific Maritime ecozones in Canada that are utilized as drinking water sources.
Tim’s experience with studying cyanobacteria includes being in both the field and in the lab. As a BSc and MSc student, he assisted a PhD student from the Müller Lab with their field sampling efforts by collecting water samples from the Turkey Lakes Watershed. In the lab, he has performed numerous extractions of bacterial DNA from sediment and water filters as well as PCR amplification and gel electrophoresis to isolate and visualize the toxin marker gene for microcystin production.
As climate change is a major driver of cyanobacterial proliferation, Tim is particularly interested in monitoring shifts in cyanobacteria community composition and abundance due to changing environmental conditions and the impact these organisms have on water systems and water treatment plants through bloom formation, and the production of toxins as well as taste and odour compounds. By currently working as a lab technician for the Müller Lab and eventually continuing his research career, he looks forward to further developing skills and methods for the monitoring and detection of cyanobacteria and their associated toxins and taste/odour compounds.
Since the start in June 2017, the forWater Network has been contributing critical knowledge to ensuring safe drinking water for all, in a future impacted by climate change. This unprecedented Network brings together two very distinct fields, drinking water treatment technology and forest management. Beyond bridging vastly different disciplines, the Network also spans research across Canada's 5 major ecozones. This synergy allows researchers to collaborate in unparalleled ways and explore research questions that are rarely asked.
This research truly captures source-to-tap impacts of forest management on drinking water treatability. The research conducted across disciplines and ecozones uncovers important insights into messy ecological datasets.
For the first time, the most recent research findings from this innovative Network of researchers and industry partners are available in a report. Some key findings of interest include:
Read the full forWater Research Updates Report 2017-2020.
Ellen Cameron has been selected for the European Molecular Biology Laboratory - European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI)-Sanger postdoctoral fellowship which combines experimental (wet-lab) and computational (dry-lab) approaches to study big data in biology. The combined approach allows researchers to have easy access to scientific expertise and well-equipped facilities to exploit complex information to make discoveries that benefit humankind.
Forested watersheds supply approximately 75 per cent of global accessible freshwater resources and serve as important sources of drinking water. Both natural and anthropogenic landscape disturbances in these watersheds can negatively impact water quality in downstream environments and jeopardize water security.
Current PhD candidate, Soosan Bahramian, shares insights she gained during her Master's research. Although forests have not been historically managed for water, appropriate forest harvesting strategies have recently been proposed for the pre-emptive mitigation of landscape disturbance effects (e.g., wildfire and flood) on source water quality and treatability. However, this must be implemented strategically such that it does not ultimately deteriorate source quality. Soosan Bahramian, graduate student in Waterloo’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is investigating the potential impacts of contemporary forest harvesting on water quality and treatability in Professor Monica Emelko’s forWater project.
The Network provides insights into new scientific research for safe, secure drinking water---globally---which starts with resilient forests