Theme 1 focuses on the question “What microscopic organisms make up the aerobiome, and how do they vary over time and space?” Until we know these fundamental details about what exists in the atmosphere, we cannot begin to make predictions about the influence of the aerobiome on ecosystems and their living organisms.
Recent overviews have identified the need for global aerosol microbial monitoring. This will require development of sampling strategies designed to provide information on biodiversity and causal relationships with the environment as the next step in discovery. We will first determine the composition of the aerobiome and how this varies spatially and temporally through our distributed strategy for state-of-art sampling and analysis at a suite of selected field sites. Meteorological and atmospheric aerosol measurements at NEON sites will complement simultaneous BROADN characterization of aerobiome components at specific spatial and temporal datapoints. Sampling at six sites over the course of the five-year project will generate more than 10,000 air, soil, and vegetation samples for constituent biological analysis, including assessment of (1) physical characteristics via microscopic evaluation; (2) viral, bacterial, protist, fungal, protozoa and nematode genomes; and (3) transcriptome analysis. Analyses will address our hypothesis that the near-surface aerobiome reflects local sources, with variability driven by both biological and physical factors. Theme 1 represents the foundation for BROADN research, resulting in development of facile aerobiome analytical techniques and an unprecedented archive for future analysis.