School of Biological and Chemical Sciences

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Giacomo Vitali

PhD student



Project title: Biogeography of spore forming bacteria and their viruses

Summary: The discovery of dormant endospores of thermophilic bacteria in Arctic marine sediments challenges the current understanding of the distribution of thermophilic taxa. Since it has already been shown that these organisms are not active in these sampling sites but can be induced to grow under high-temperature anoxic conditions, it appears that they may originate from one or more far-off warm, anoxic sources and carried to cold marine sediments by ocean currents. This PhD project will investigate the biogeographic distribution, diversity, and abundance of thermophilic spore-forming bacteria in sediments sampled along the coast of Svalbard in order to gather information about the location of these possible source habitats and their original community composition, ecology, and physiology. The project will also examine whether these organisms are influenced by phage, and whether such phage exist along side them in the sediments where they are found. Methods include the use of heated incubation experiments, physiological measurements (sulphate reduction and volatile fatty acid use dynamics), genomics of the target organisms, qPCR, and sequence database mining. Overall, the results will reveal dispersal patterns that can improve the current knowledge of marine microbial biogeography.




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