Microbes are key players in climate change: microbial processes such as methanogenesis can contribute to greenhouse gas production, while other processes such as methanotrophy consume greenhouse gases and thus have the potential to help us mitigate climate change induced effects. Moreover, microbial adaptation to the changing climate will be crucial for ecosystem functioning in the future.

In peatlands, microbes a crucial for the anaerobic degradation of organic matter, which via fermentations in the end might lead to methane production and emission. However, the presence of alternative electron acceptors such as nitrate or sulfate might lead to processes like denitrification or sulfate reduction to be active in the peat, which in turn might lower methane emissions. It is thus important to study the composition of peat and porewater (to check if alternative electron acceptors are present), the process potentials for denitrification, sulfate reduction and methanogenesis as well as the composition of the microbial communities. In this course we will explore methods for environmental sampling and determination of concentrations in porewater and peat, incubation studies to assess potential process rates as well as Nanopore next-generation sequencing of the microbial community. We will demonstrate with simple experiments how to use these very versatile methods in forefront research.

You will learn how to assess biogeochemical processes in a peat soil and characterize the soils microbial community. This includes (1) taking of soil and porewater samples from peat, (2) field measurements such as greenhouse gas emission, pH or temperature, (3) chemical analysis of soil and porewater constituents, (4) short incubation studies in the laboratory to test for the potential of selected biogeochemical processes, and (5) Nanopore MinION next generation sequencing of amplicons and full metagenomes from peat soil. The active work will be complemented by lecturers given by experts in the field and two days for data analysis and discussion after the course.