Fierer Lab

Exploring the structure and function of microbial communities

Garbage in, garbage out: Wrestling with contamination in microbial sequencing projects

August 15th, 2018 By: Noah Fierer, Jessica Henley, and Matt Gebert   They are insidious. They are difficult to eliminate. They strike fear in the hearts of microbiologists worldwide.  Hard drive failures? Third reviewers? Bedbugs lurking in conference hotels? Nope. Contaminants in your high-throughput sequence data. High-throughput sequencing approaches are now routinely used to characterize

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Do all animals need microbes?

By Tobin Hammer, Jon Sanders, & Noah Fierer May 18th, 2018   Have you—like us—ever written a paper or grant proposal with a statement along the lines of “All animals host microbial symbionts that play critical roles in many aspects of host ecology, behavior, and development”? If so, this blog post is for you. We

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Is RNA a useful measure of microbial activity?

December 20, 2017 By Noah Fierer Let’s say a microbial ecologist wants to identify which bacteria are active in a given environmental sample at a given point in time. For example, you may want to determine which bacteria are active in a desert soil after a large rainfall event. This is often done by comparing

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Intragenomic heterogeneity and its implications for ESVs

By Angela Oliverio and Noah Fierer October 9, 2017 In a recent blog post, we focused on the advantages and disadvantages of using exact sequence variants (ESVs) versus OTUs to cluster marker gene sequences for microbial community analyses. Just to recap – let’s say we sequenced a pool of 16S rRNA genes from a bacterial

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Ecosystem restoration: what do soil and feces have in common?

By: Noah Fierer July 22, 2016 Some of you may have seen this paper that came out recently in Nature Plants by Wubs et al. “Soil inoculation steers restoration of terrestrial ecosystems”. As a soil ecologist – this paper brings joy to my heart. It was great to read this paper as it demonstrates the

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Field reflections from NZ: microbial eukaryotic life in hot springs

By Angela Oliverio July 6, 2016 I’m in my fourth week here in the Taupo Volcanic Zone of New Zealand on my quest to understand what eukaryotic life –especially protists– can thrive in hotsprings. A quick refresher: protists are single-celled microbial eukaryotes and include many diverse lineages like amoebae, ciliates and flagellates. While bacteria and

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Why graduate students are like NFL quarterbacks

By: Noah Fierer January 29, 2016 As the NFL season draws to a close, we can look back and try to figure out why some teams were winners (Go Broncos!) while others are perennial losers (sorry Cleveland). Undoubtedly one key to success is the ability of coaches and managers to select good players. Fortunately, for

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“Everything is everywhere…” gets us nowhere

By: Noah Fierer Microbial ecology has surprisingly few unifying concepts. It is difficult to identify ‘rules’ or paradigms that apply across the field of microbial ecology regardless of the taxonomic group or environment in question. Here is my short list and I realize I am probably missing quite a few obvious ones: Bacterial cell size

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