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3.1 Sentinel microbiomes for Arctic ecosystem health

Principal Investigators

Daniel Côté, Warwick F. Vincent


Claudine Allen, Denis Boudreau, Alexander Culley, Nicolas Derome, Jesse Greener, Connie Lovejoy


Dermot Antoniades, Jacques Corbeil, Patrick Desrosiers, André Marette, Pierre Marquet, Sylvain Moineau, Jean-Sébastien Moore, Mohammed Taghavi

Collaborators outside U. Laval

Abdel El Abed (France), Jérôme Comte (INRS), Anne Jungblut (United-Kingdom), Weidong Kong (China), Isabelle Laurion (INRS), Rachael Morgan-Kiss (Florida), Milla Rautio (UQAC), Yukiko Tanabe (Japan)

Project summary

The Arctic is warming at rates more than twice the global average, and much larger changes are projected for high northern latitudes by the end of this century. This proposal addresses the question: what sentinel microbiome properties of northern marine and freshwater environments can be used to improve surveillance of Arctic ecosystem health in the face of these increasing perturbations? We will harness a broad range of expertise at Université Laval, from molecular biology, chemistry and physics to aquatic ecosystem science, and will extend our scope of activities by collaborating with research centres operating in the Canadian North and with industry. Our first aim will be to identify the composition, complex system properties and resilience of two classes of Arctic microbiomes: planktonic and biofilms. Our approach will harness the power of metagenomics to address knowledge gaps in how to define sentinel microbiomes for the Arctic, and to identify what microbiome properties can be used to determine changes in the health of Arctic ecosystems.

We will target:

i) environmental microbiomes in a comprehensive set of northern marine and freshwater ecosystems including Baffin Bay, Hudson Bay, lakes and fjords in northern Nunavut and permafrost wetlands in Nunavut; and

ii) host-associated microbiomes of the iconic fish species of the North, Arctic char, with emphasis on the impact of both native and invasive pathogenic species on the productivity and sustainability of this major resource.

Our second important aim will be to develop two types of novel optical instruments for the central goal of Arctic microbiome surveillance:

i) a multimodal opto-fluidics system that can detect and sort specific classes of planktonic cells; and

ii) a portable hyperspectral Raman imaging system to quantify microbial biomass via cellular lipids, and to obtain lipid signatures of host-associated and free-living biofilms.