October 16-17, 2018 | Lincoln, Nebraska
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2018 NRIC speakers
portrait of Kirsten Kusel


Kirsten Küsel
University of Jena
Forming a groundwater microbiome: Go with the flow and find a niche
The terrestrial deep biosphere hosts up to 20% of the earth’s biomass. Within AquaDiva, we aim to understand the links between the surface and subsurface biogeosphere. To achieve this, we have constructed a novel infrastructure, the Hainich Critical Zone Exploratory, which allows us to access groundwater and aquifer rock material from oligotrophic limestone aquifers along with soil and seepage from the respective groundwater recharge areas. We tracked the formation of the groundwater microbiome and the differentiation of the predominant Cand. Patescibacteria. Network and correlation analysis allowed us to postulate different biological and hydrochemical drivers for community assembly. By comparing the stable and radiogenic carbon isotope compositions of phospholipid-derived fatty acids (PLFAs) with those of the potential microbial carbon sources, we determined that subsurface microbiomes appeared to assimilate up to 70% ancient organic matter. These signatures challenge the current paradigm and point to an intensive internal cycling of carbon independent of surface input.
Kristen Küsel studied Geoecology with a focus on hydrology, geochemistry and soil science before she entered the fascinating field of environmental microbiology to start a Ph.D. under the supervision of Harold L. Drake at University of Bayreuth, Germany, in 1992. During her postdoc time she focused on diversity, function and adaptation strategies of anaerobic bacteria at oxic-anoxic gradients in soils, freshwater and marine sediments. In 2004 she became Professor for Limnology and later Full Professor for Aquatic Geomicrobiology at University of Jena which allows her to combine the fields of microbiology and geoscience. She is also a founding Director of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, a research centre with approximately 300 employees and members with the mission to establish the scientific basis for the sustainable management of our planet´s biodiversity.