The Annis Water Resources Institute conducts research, education, and outreach activities on several fronts. One of the research areas our scientists have worked on in recent years is the exploration of newly discovered groundwater vent ecosystems in the Great Lakes basin. Dissolution of Paleozoic bedrock has resulted in the formation of karst sinkholes in the Lake Huron basin. Underground groundwater discharge flows through this sinkhole. This water has a unique chemistry. We view these submerged sinkholes in Lake Huron as freshwater analogs of marine geothermal vent ecosystems. Extreme conditions are likely to fuel specialized life forms and life processes. Evidence from hot vents and cold seeps occurring in the ocean indicate that communities inhabiting these extreme marine environments support unique food webs and biogeochemical pathways that are primarily mediated by microorganisms - both heterotrophic and chemosynthetic. However, little is known regarding the microbial community composition and the processes they mediate in these freshwater submerged sinkhole ecosystems.
This research, led by AWRI's microbial ecologist, Bopi Biddanda, has already resulted in collaborations with scientists from other institutions, scientific publications, external funding, and most recently, 2nd prize for a poster by graduate student, Cynthia June. Cynthia presented her research work with Bopi from this past summer at the annual meting of the Michigan Space Grant Consortium in Ann Arbor, where her work was recognized.