Microbial ecology and biogeography of groundwater aquifers

Groundwater is a limited and vulnerable resource that is used for drinking water, agriculture and industrial applications. Baseline studies to understand the ecology of aquifers are crucial to assess potential natural and anthropogenic impacts.

One of 250 active observation wells that are part of the Groundwater Observation Well Network (GOWN) sampled and maintained by the Government of Alberta. We joined efforts to investigate and understand the microbial communities of the monitored aquifers. (Photo: GOWN)

We study groundwater ecosystems on a very large scale and at high resolution. We investigate the geochemistry and microbial ecology of groundwater from >120 dedicated monitoring wells located in southern and central Alberta, Canada, using total cell counts, gas and liquid chromatography, isotope ratio mass spectrometry, and meta-omics methods.

Samples for microbial cell counts from many different aquifers across Southern Alberta. (Photo: E. Ruff)

We show that the subsurface of Alberta is an energy-rich and productive ecosystem full of diverse microbes. The project is supported by the Groundwater Observation Well Network and Alberta Innovates Technology Futures and is in collaboration with the groups of Bernhard Mayer and Marc Strous.

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