fieldwork in the Strous lab

Microbial Markets (Strous Lab) Research

The Microbial Markets Lab is part of the Department of Geoscience and located in the award-winning EEEL building. Currently, students and scholars develop new biotechnology from alkaline soda lake microbiomes and grow enigmatic microbes from Alberta groundwater using geo-pops.

Rapid progress in DNA sequencing and other high throughput technologies have driven rapid progress in microbial ecology. Unfortunately, we lack theory to make sense of all the amassed data. The Microbial Markets lab draws inspiration from the field of Economy to develop new ecological theory and test hypotheses with creative market experiments. It also draws inspiration from the kitchen to develop new media for growing microbes more inclusively.

If you would like to know more about working in the Strous Lab, check out 1. our code, 2. our expectations, 3. the 500 questions for Candidacy and 4. our recruitment and selection procedures.

We are currently seeking two new graduate students (PhD or MSc)!

Interested to work on one of the two topics below: Send your application to mstrous@ucalgary.ca before Jan 15, 2023. Your application should consist of a curriculum vitae and a cover letter or brief video and address the following questions:

  • How does your background align with our 500-question research context?
  • What do you want to achieve and learn as a graduate student in our team?
  • What do you bring to the table that will make our team stronger as a whole?

The University of Calgary is one of Canada’s top research universities, located in one of the World’s most livable cities. Among many other assets, it features a one hour drive to the Canadian Rockies.

cyanobacteria, cultivation at high pH and alkalinity

Alkaline Soda Lakes, Bioenergy and Alkaline Biotechnology

The Canadian Rockies feature a rich diversity of alkaline soda lakes. Some of these lakes contain prolific microbial mats mainly consisting of large, filamentous cyanobacteria. Our team enriched a community consisting of such a cyanobacterium and its associated heterotrophs. This community has potential for biotechnology, both for bioenergy production and production of phycocyanin, a natural blue pigment for food and beverage. The research is in part performed at field scale in our outdoor raceway pond. It also features fieldwork to learn more about the natural environment of the associated microorganisms. A spin off company was established, check out https://www.synergiabiotech.com/. This project uses a combination of field work (sampling soda lakes), laboratory cultivation, outdoors experiments, nanopore sequencing and cloud computation.

Team Marianne Haines, Varada Khot, Angela Kouris, Stan Pankratz, Alex Paquette, Ruchita Solanki, Taina Tervahauta, Agasteswar Vadlamani, Lianchun Yi, Marc Strous and, previously, Maryam Ataeian, William Richardson, Christine Sharp.


Geo-pops (Lab Cultivation of Enigmatic Microbes from Groundwater)

Together with Alberta Environments and Parks, our group surveys groundwater samples for interesting microbes. Groundwater contains a large diversity of Bacteria, Archaea and Eukaryotes, that have never been grown in labs and that are evolutionary unrelated to anything we really know. In this research, we survey microbial biodiversity in groundwater from across the Province of Alberta. We then engineer microcosms, “Geo-pops”, and offer them to interesting groundwater microbiomes for growth, enabling new microbes to grow in new and original ways. Microbes can grow all by themselves or depend on pthers as predators or symbionts. This project uses a combination of field work (sampling groundwater), laboratory growing, nanopore sequencing and cloud computation.

Team Damon Mosier, Muhe Diao, Marc Strous and, previously, Bella Hrabe de Angelis, Kay Kuloyo, Emil Ruff

 

Groundwater Sampling

Groundwater Sampling by Muhe Diao and Damon Mosier.


Undergraduate Research in the Strous Lab
  1. Optimizing biomass production in an outdoors raceway pond

    Angelica Markosky

    Department of Biological Sciences

    Supervised by Marianne Haines, Dr. Will Richardson

    2021

  2. Development of Flexible Photobioreactors

    Jeremy Ohlhauser

    Schulich School of Engineeering

    Supervised by Dr. Will Richardson

    2019-2020

     

  3. Rheology of Mixtures of Algae and Media

    Beth Mentie

    Schulich School of Engineeering

    Supervised by Dr. Will Richardson

    2019

  4. Freezing Tolerance of Cyanobacteria used in Bioenergy

    Sim Lakhyan

    Department of Biological Sciences

    Supervised by William Richardson

    2018


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The University of Calgary is a global intellectual hub located in Canada’s most enterprising city. In our spirited, high-quality learning environment, students thrive in programs made rich by research, handson experiences and entrepreneurial thinking. Our strategy drives us to be recognized as one of Canada’s top five research universities, engaging the communities we both serve and lead. This strategy is called Eyes High, inspired by the university’s Gaelic motto, which translates as ‘I will lift up my eyes.’ For more information, visit ucalgary.ca/eyeshigh.