The Hallam Lab

Investigating microbial communities…
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Hakai Institute

Ecosystem Type: Coastal Ocean
Location: 51.6545°N, 128.1320°W

Founded in 2010, the Hakai Institute is a privately funded Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) station that serves as the base for varying scientific and archaeological research programs with a commitment to education and leadership on the central coast of British Columbia. Located on Calvert Island, an isolated 161 km2 (62 mi2) island roughly 100 km north of Port Hardy at the northern end of Vancouver Island, the Institute is a spacious 215 acres. It is surrounded by the Hakai Lúxvbálís Conservancy, the largest marine conservancy on the BC coast at 1,230 km2. In partnership with the BC Parks system, the Institute has access to all of this undeveloped territory.

The Hallam Lab has been involved in the work at Hakai since 2013 and Colleen Kellogg is a key member of the Kwakshua Watershed Program. This program is made up of multiple components focused on studying the terrestrial landscape, hydrology, biogeochemistry, microbial ecology, and oceanography of this system, with a focus on the linkages between the terrestrial and marine systems of Calvert Island and how the terrestrial subsidies impact local marine productivity. This location is a typical example of coastal temperate rainforest and is a perfect study site for better understanding the microbial role in the soils, streams, and surrounding marine waters typical of this type of environment. On land, with a variety of ecosystem types (blanket bog, bog woodland, bog forest, zonal forest, etc.) in close proximity, it is possible to ask many questions of how these bacterial communities vary by ecosystem type within a watershed, over short distances among different watersheds and through time on both seasonal and interannual timescales. Repeated sampling within Kwakshua Channel makes it possible to ask many questions about how the inputs of organic matter from land impact microbial community structure and function spatially, seasonally and interannually.

Preliminary results from 2013 sampling suggest that soil microbial communities vary more by ecosystem type than by watershed on these islands. Clear distinctions exist between the community of the bog when compared to that of the forest or woodland community. Also, significant seasonal and depth dependent differences exist in the marine microbial community based on samples from streams and Kwakshua channel in July, September, and November of that year. The observed spatial and temporal variability in the community highlights their ability to respond to the variable organic matter inputs that are characteristic of this ecosystem.
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One benefit of the work at Hakai is the advanced telecommunications system that allows for remote instruments to transmit their data back to the main station and out over the internet in near real-time. Here, a network of probes is measuring the reduction-oxidation potential of the soils which is an indication of oxygen content and, to some degree, microbial metabolic processes.

Planned and Recent Cruises

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Hallam Lab members have traveled to Calvert Island five times (March, April, June, August, and October) in 2014 and a similar frequency is expected for 2015. Hakai Institute staff conduct sampling for other Hakai core projects daily during the operating season of mid-March through October and occasional sampling during the winter months.