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Research Staff

Dr Gordon Webster

Microorganisms perform and control the fundamental processes required for the cycling of nutrients in the environment but we are relatively ignorant of the ways in which they grow and survive in natural environments and of the factors controlling microbial species diversity and community structure in nature. Research within the group here at Cardiff utilises a range of molecular and traditional laboratory-based cultivation techniques to determine and investigate these controlling factors.

Currently, my research interests are in marine sediment ecology where recent developments have centred on collaborative studies of very deep sediment cores taken as part of the International Ocean Drilling Programme (ODP). This research has shown that active and dividing bacteria are found in sediments up to 3 million years old and at 500 m below the sea floor. The use of 16S rRNA-based methods to examine the diversity of the bacterial community suggests that these sediments have a unique group of so far uncultured bacteria and Archaea.

The NERC MFMB project to study deep sediments will involve PCR amplification of 16S rRNA and other important functional genes from DNA extracted directly from the environment and analysed by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE), sequencing and phylogenetic analysis. In addition, the work will look at the use of Stable Isotope Probing (SIP) with different 13C labelled substrates to determine which organisms are active and their possible ecological role within the deep sub-seafloor biosphere.