Treating Microbes like Canaries
Just as coal miners used canaries to monitor air quality, we use microbes to monitor water. Since microbes live in intimate contact with their surroundings and have very short life spans, their populations react rapidly to environmental changes. The “microbial fingerprint” of a sample can therefore tell us much about its composition. With inventions exclusively licensed from UNC Greensboro, we have all the tools we need to determine a microbial fingerprint’s key features and then to measure those to make quantitative inferences about a variety of compounds, from heavy metals to volatile organics.
Unifying Testing with DNA Detection
To evaluate a sample’s microbial fingerprint, we must first measure the concentrations of a broad panel of organisms. This is a task impossible for traditional techniques, but well within the capabilities of modern DNA detection technologies. In fact, DNA detection methods allow us to augment our fingerprint analysis with the examination of additional microbes (like E. coli and Giardia) that are of direct interest to water managers. In doing so, we combine our “microbial canary” detection of chemical compounds with the direct detection of biological entities, thus unifying chemical and biological testing on a single platform.
Marshall, M. M., Amos, R. N., Henrich, V. C., & Rublee, P. A. (2008). Developing SSU rDNA metagenomic profiles of aquatic microbial communities for environmental assessments. Ecological Indicators 8:442-‐453. http://libres.uncg.edu/ir/uncg/listing.aspx?id=7324
Deveraux, R., et al. (2006). Development and applications of microbial ecogenomic indicators for monitoring water quality. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 116:459-‐479. http://libres.uncg.edu/ir/uncg/listing.aspx?styp=ti&id=7582