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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Microbial communities in Canadian coastal sediments Spence, Jenifer S.


Prokaryotes are the most abundant organisms on Earth. These microorganisms play an integral role in maintaining Earth’s habitability through their role as catalysts in global biogeochemical cycling. While microorganisms have been identified in almost every environment on Earth, the most populous environments are the open ocean, soil, and oceanic subsurface (coastal and deep-sea sediments). Notably, coastal sediments play an outsized role in global biogeochemical cycling, as they host some of the largest microbial communities on Earth despite comprising a relatively small fraction of the Earth’s surface area. To date, however, there is a lack of knowledge on the microbial ecology of these sediments. This thesis investigates the microbial community diversity, composition, and structure in 10 geographically disparate Canadian sites. Community profiling using 16S rRNA sequencing, reveals a core microbial community shared among all sediments studied and an accessory community that displays biogeographical variation. Quantitative analyses of population sizes based on direct cell counting and qPCR suggests that core members of coastal sediment communities may be among the most abundant organisms on Earth. This information on coastal sediment microbial communities represents the first step towards linking coastal sediment biogeochemical cycling to underlying microbial community metabolism.

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