The group is part of a consortium led by Tom Battin at EPFL who has received four years of funding to study microbial biofilms and their implications for habitability and ecosystem evolution in glacial floodplain streams. Abbreviated to « ENSEMBLE » the focus of the project is how, in the presence of rapidly retreating glaciers, microbial biofilms respond and in turn impact the ecosystem evolution of glacial-floodplain systems. We will work at the interface of microbial ecology, vegetation ecology, hydrology and geomorphology to address the following questions:
(i) What are the ecological strategies and genomic underpinnings of biofilms that make them successful in colonizers in GFSs that emanate from glacier shrinkage?
(ii) Do microbial biofilms change, through ecosystem engineering, the geomorphodynamics of GFSs thereby increasing their habitability?
(iii) Does the interaction between microbial and geomorphic processes affect ecosystem heterogeneity in glacier floodplains?
We will be working primarily at the Otemma glacier in the Val de Bagnes (VS), but also the Rosengletscher (GR) and Zinal glacier, Val d’Anniviers (VS).