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.
“I am excited to have been given the opportunity to be involved in the EBI-Sanger fellowship program,” shares Cameron,
“EMBL-EBI and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute are world renowned institutions in the disciplines of bioinformatics and molecular biology. This fellowship is going to allow me to continue to build on the skills I’ve developed in graduate school and apply them in new directions.”
Cameron, co-supervised by Kirsten Müller and Monica Emelko in a transdisciplinary PhD at the University of Waterloo on interpreting microbial communities of cyanobacteria using DNA analysis, will further her expertise during this fellowship.
Cameron’s studies have centered on algal ecology in the past which she’ll tie into fungus symbiosis with lichens during her fellowship. She’ll be exploring an area of modern sequencing approaches in symbiosis genomics and identifying if there are key markers for interaction which could be applied to other areas of research.
“Lichens are unique because they behave as miniature ecosystems with the presence of the host species, algal symbiont and other microbial organisms. Using innovative techniques, we can begin to disentangle these complex systems and explore the evolution of symbiotic relationships.”
Cameron will travel to England in September 2021 where the Wellcome Genome Campus is located near Cambridge to start her fellowship.
Spotlight on Ellen Cameron's research into cyanobacteria communities
Cyanobacteria blooms are a major environmental issue worldwide. They can have direct impacts on the safety of drinking water supplies by producing a variety of toxins which also impose health risks for swimmers and boaters. Although many may associate cyanobacteria with bright green algae seen on the surface of lakes, Ellen Cameron, PhD candidate in Waterloo’s Biology Department, is using DNA sequencing to study cyanobacteria communities in low-nutrient, clear lakes in Northern Ontario.
“Even though the lakes I’m working in look like stereotypical picturesque lakes of Ontario, they have high abundances of cyanobacteria,” said Cameron. “We are trying to better understand the cyanobacteria communities that are in these lakes by using DNA sequencing to look for specific genetic markers that can tell us about the identity of organisms and what functions they may be performing.”
Cameron is working alongside researchers in professor Monica Emelko’s forWater project. Her research sites are part of a long-term research station operated by Natural Resources Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada in the Turkey Lakes Watershed. Cameron and her team discovered that at some of the sampling points, cyanobacteria composed 60 percent of the total microbial community. Using metagenomic shotgun sequencing, a technique that sequences all of the DNA present in the sample, Cameron and her team were able to recover three high-quality genomes for select cyanobacteria found in the lakes which contain the genetic information for these organisms. This discovery will help to understand the pathways and functions of these organisms further.
“The recovery of the cyanobacteria genomes and identification of toxin genes will provide critical insight for understanding the threats that cyanobacteria impose in low-nutrient systems that may not have visible blooms,” said Cameron.
Co-supervised by Water Institute members Kirsten Müller, professor in the Department of Biology, and Monica Emelko, Canada Research Chair in Water Science, Technology & Policy and professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Cameron hopes that her research will improve frameworks for the design of ecologically meaningful sampling protocols for cyanobacteria monitoring.
Cameron acknowledged the benefits of working in interdisciplinary teams while researching wicked water problems: “The co-supervision has allowed me to gain support from both lab groups which has been an invaluable experience and has helped provide me with insights into my data that as a biologist alone, I might not have thought of,” said Cameron.
Original research article written by Allie Dusome, Water Institute
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.
"This is the first comprehensive investigation of the impact of forest harvesting on drinking water treatability" said Bahramian. “In my research, I investigated how forest harvesting, with careful implementation of best management practices, can impact water treatability downstream.”
Bahramian’s research was one of the very few studies that focused on forest harvesting at a watershed-scale, and investigated the impact of three different methods of contemporary forest harvesting: clear-cut, strip-cut, and partial-cut, on drinking water treatability, in the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, Canada.
The results of Bahramian’s research shows that forest harvesting, when implemented with techniques that are used to prevent or minimize the impacts of forest harvesting in a watershed, such as pre-harvesting planning and erosion control, would not have a significant impact on water quality and treatability. Bahramian hopes this will add to our understanding about forest management practices and its impact on drinking water.
This research was conducted in partnership with Canfor, a member of the forWater Network. The forestry company implemented the best management practices applied during the forest harvesting and Bahramian studied the impacts on water treatability. This type of cross-sector and transdisciplinary collaboration is critical and unique to the research conducted across the forWater Network.
Learn more about Bahramian’s research here: www.forwater.ca
Learn more about Canfor's forWater partnership: https://www.forwater.ca/news/canfor-forwater-deliver-better-forest-management-practices-for-drinking-water-and-beyond
Krishnappan BG, Stone M, Granger SJ, Upadhayay HR, Tang Q, Zhang Y, Collins AL. Experimental Investigation of Erosion Characteristics of Fine-Grained Cohesive Sediments. Water 2020, 12(5): 1511.
Cohesive sediment plays an important role in the transport and fate of pollutants and is a key driver of water quality degradation in aquatic systems such as rivers and reservoirs. Knowledge of cohesive sediment transport processes (erosion, deposition and flocculation) is critical for the development of reliable numerical models designed to simulate cohesive sediment and associated contaminant transport dynamics.
In this study, the erosion behavior of cohesive sediment collected from the upper River Taw in South West England was studied in a rotating annular flume located in the National Water Research Institute in Burlington, Ontario, Canada in order to model the transport of fine sediment and the associated nutrients in the River Taw. The results show that eroded sediment is transported in a flocculated form due to the presence of microorganisms and organic matter. The experimental data and the fitting coefficients were established as a function of bed shear stress and depositional history of sediment and applied to a fine sediment transport model (FLUME) which accurately simulated the erosion experiments in a rotating circular flume deposit.
We are excited to announce two upcoming talks with Professor Adrian (Adie) Collins, hydrologist and head of Sustainable Agriculture Sciences at Rothamsted Research North Wyke in the United Kingdom.
Young Professionals Training:
Source water protection at the policy-science-stakeholder nexus: a narrative from England
Wednesday March 24th Webinar at 11am EDT
Adie's presentation on March 24th will be 20-30 minutes in length with the remaining hour open for discussion.
YP webinar description: In the upcoming forWater webinar, Adrian will be talking briefly about the implementation of a program by the UK government whereby funding for improved agricultural management strategies was acquired through changes to water rates, with broad public support. This initiative sits at the nexus of issues involving land management, water quality and society, and provides a fascinating example of science-policy interaction with an ecosystem services twist.
Learning Objectives for YP
Bio: Adie's research interests broadly include the sustainability of agricultural practices and land use, which he investigates through the integration of empirical and modelling approaches. A detailed biography for Adrian can be found here.
Registration: Contact Elanor Waslander for the webinar link.
forWater Network and Water Institute talk with
The Network provides insights into new scientific research for safe, secure drinking water---globally---which starts with resilient forests