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Laboratory of Environmental Biotechnology

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Measure and control of microbial diversity

Biodiversity is known as insurance for ecosystem services. Since microbial transformations are central for many processes (Nitrogen removal, anaerobic digestion, fermentations, gut digestion, etc), microbial diversity needs to be carefully characterized.

We surveyed some key molecular techniques in their ability to accurately describe microbial diversity (fingerprinting patterns, molecular inventories using sequencing). The most striking result was that even with the most advanced high throughput sequencing technology, it is not possible to accurately count the number of microbial species in a sample.

However, the fantastic toolbox of molecular techniques at hand allows us to describe the dynamics of communities and to identify the key microbial players involved in the functioning of the ecosystem. One main objective of the research conducted in the laboratory is to be able to control actively the dynamics and the evolution of microbial communities that catalyze the bioconversions of interest.

Artificial ecosystems (either simplified or synthetic) for pollution removal, energy production or high-valuable molecules are well suited for experimentations since environmental conditions are easily manageable, unlike the animal digestive systems that are much more constrained. Hence, articifial ecosystems manipulated at the laboratory scale can be deployed on a larger scale (pilot and full-scale plants) because we do not work with GMOs.

This research is conducted in a multidisciplinary approach involving microbial ecologists, microbial engineers, mathematicians, physicists and modellers.

Contact: Jérôme HAMELIN