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Microbial Ecology and Metabolic Diversity at Hydrothermal Vents

Heather Fullerton, College of Charleston

2 February 2018

Microbes are everywhere, and in many ecosystems, they are the key drivers of biogeochemical cycles. The biogeochemical cycle of iron is one such important example because iron is one of the most abundant elements on Earth and is critically important in many other biological processes. However, only microbes are able to utilize it as an energy source. In high-iron environments, such as diffuse hydrothermal vents, the Zetaproteobacteria are ecosystem engineers and as such are important members of the microbial community. The importance of these microbes is just beginning to be understood and biogeographic patterns remain poorly described. Results from recent field sought to address this with a metagenomics approach which suggest specific genomic adaptations and biogeographic patterns associated with diffuse and iron-dominated hydrothermal vents.