Centralia, Pennsylvania is the site of an underground coal seam fire that ignighted in 1962. The fire burns along coal seam deep underground, heating overlying surface soils and, in some locations, exposing them to coal combustion pollutants. As the fire progresses, areas once affected are allowed to cool and potentially recover from the disturbance. I am interested in how microbial communities (or the microbiome) of these soils changes during and after this disturbance. Specifically, I am interested in wether it impacts resistance genes such as antibiotic and arsenic resistance genes.
Microbial arsenic resistance mechanisms have important implications for public health since they can impact the fate of arsenic, a known poison and carcinogen, in the environment. I am developing methods to improve and streamline annotation of arsenic resistance genes from sequencing data so that we can get a better understanding of the distribution and abundance of these genes in the environment and potentially improve bioremediation and risk assessment. I am applying these methods to several soil metagenomes to test the abundance of different arsenic resistance genes in non-contaminated environemnts throughout the world.
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