2. Sparkling Science Project

Biodiversity and ecology
of freshwater bacteria

The genus Aquirufa, discovered and scientifically described in cooperation with school classes, is the midpoint of a citizen science project (1.09.2022-31.08.2025). The Sparkling Science project is funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research.
Aquirufa is a widespread and frequent group of bacteria in freshwaters and plays an important role in the functioning of these ecosystems. A team of the Research Department for Limnology, Mondsee (University of Innsbruck) in cooperation with Haus der Natur, Salzburg, and the German Collection of Microorganisms and Cell Cultures, Braunschweig will work together with various groups of citizen scientists to study the distribution, ecology, and biodiversity of Aquirufa in freshwater habitats in Salzburg and Upper Austria. The project should impart knowledge about the importance of microbial activity for our freshwater systems to the involved citizen scientists, as well as to a broader public. Probably several million bacterial species exist, but only a little over 20.000 species are scientifically named and described. Until now this enormous biodiversity remains mainly unexplored.
During the project six school classes, as well as additional groups of citizen scientists, will take water samples from self-chosen freshwater habitats, the Mondsee and waters of the Weitwörther Au and will handle them under the instructions of the project team.
With amplicon Illumina sequencing of the 16S rRNA gene and a protein coding marker gene the abundance and diversity of this group of bacteria should be investigated. Furthermore, it is planned to sequence the genomes of the obtained isolates and to describe newly discovered Aquirufa species scientifically. Here the citizen scientists will be actively involved in the whole research process, from the first beginning up to publishing. Besides participation in the laboratory work, their creative contribution should be the selection of aquatic habitats for sampling and the creation of Latin-based species names. This website serves for documentation of each step of the project individual for each school class and citizen science group (here available in German). Some blog entries in English are here available.