Fierer Lab

Exploring the structure and function of microbial communities

What’s in a number? Estimating microbial richness using DADA2

February 17th, 2020 Corinne Walsh & Noah Fierer Soils are often touted as harboring some of the most diverse microbial communities of any habitat on Earth. We typically expect to detect on the order of thousands of different bacterial taxa in a given soil sample using culture-independent sequencing methods. However, richness (number of distinct taxa

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The ‘hidden’ costs of microbial community analyses

February 13th, 2019 By: Noah Fierer DNA sequencing is clearly a powerful tool for analyzing microbial communities. It is now somewhat routine to take a sample of feces, tap water, or bellybutton lint and use DNA sequencing-based approaches to analyze the microbes living therein. We also know that the cost of generating DNA sequence data

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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 NOTE: A more complete discussion of these ideas is now available in the corresponding publication (available here). 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

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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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