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Aerobiota of the Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawai’i: MoBE Postdoctoral Fellowship


Dr. Laura Tipton and her husband at nearby Mauna Kea, Hawai’i in 2010

The Aerobiota of the Mauna Loa Observatory (MLO), Hawai’i project will fully characterize the fungal and bacterial communities captured over the last decade by air filters at the MLO on the island of Hawai’i, one of the most remote locations on earth. It might seem odd to call a weather station in a remote location a built environment, but the majority of fungi found in indoor air originates from outdoor air (as opposed to from building occupants). We feel it’s important to know where these fungi are originating from, how they are impacted by shifts in global and local climates, and how they are co-occurring with one another and with co-localized bacteria.

In 2000, our collaborators from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) installed an active air sampler system at MLO to collect samples to analyze aerosol particulate matter. Filters were collected when fully saturated with particulates, about every 4 days for 13 years. These filters trapped and preserved all particles smaller than 10 μm including spores of many fungi and airborne bacteria. With samples dating from 2000 through 2012, the MLO samples represent one of the longest aerobiota and microbial community studies available.

From this wealth of samples, we plan to (1) determine the relationship between fungal aerobiota and global climate and local weather patterns, and (2) characterize relationships between fungi and bacteria at MLO. Analyzing global patterns will help us determine where our fungi originate from and how their communities shift in relationship to key climatic variables. We will then look at the relationships between fungi, as well as with the bacteria present on the same air filters. Altogether, this project will offer a complete overview of the aerobiota community captured at MLO. This project will add knowledge of the diversity and biogeography of aerobiota, including both fungi and bacteria.

I am honored to be awarded the Sloan Foundation MoBE Postdoctoral Fellowship and am excited to be working approximately 188 miles northwest of MLO, in the laboratory of Dr. Nicole Hynson in the Department of Botany at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. For more information, see www.hynsonlab.com.

2 thoughts on “Aerobiota of the Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawai’i: MoBE Postdoctoral Fellowship

  1. Excellent work! I was staying at MLO in 2000 when John Barnes began collecting samples, perhaps for your project.(I have calibrated my instruments at MLO for 25 years.) On 7 Aug 2018, a major forest fire in Volcano National Park sent a thick plume of smoke over MLO. I measured the attenuation of sunlight and, especially, UVB, during this rare event. My daughter Sarah was the first person to discover living microbes in biomass smoke (arriving in Texas from Yucatan). Perhaps your samples during early August might have microbes associated with the fire.

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