Most prior research in cave microbiology has been restricted to subaerial ('dry') caves, and little research has been conducted in submerged caves, which represent unique windows into deeper groundwater environments. Our research in this area employs a variety of molecular genetic approaches to characterize microbial diversity from several submerged freshwater caves in central Florida. Primary questions of interest include: How similar are the microorganisms in these systems to those typically found in dry caves? Do these habitats represent reservoirs of new microbial diversity? We are currently focusing on sites that are dominated by chemosynthetic bacteria with metabolism based on sulfur oxidation.
Funding for this project has been provided by the National Science Foundation, and the work represents a major collaboration between VCU and the Cambrian Foundation, a 501(c)(3) that is dedicated to research, education, preservation, and exploration of the aquatic realm. The project also involves Drs. Aaron Mills and Janet Herman from the University of Virginia.
Our Florida Springs Project includes both a research component as well as extensive education/outreach efforts facilitated by the Cambrian Foundation. You can follow along with our research expeditions by visiting the "Project Updates" section of the Cambrian Foundation website.
Recent publications from this work include:
- Herman, J.S., A.G. Hounshell, R.B. Franklin, and A.L. Mills. 2013. Biological control on acid generation at the conduit-bedrock boundary in submerged caves: quantification through geochemical modeling. Acta Carsologica. 42:213-225. DOI: 10.3986/ac.v42i2-3.663
- Mills, A.L., T.N. Tysall, and J.S. Herman. 2013. An approach for collection of nearfield groundwater samples in submerged limestone caverns. Acta Carsologica. 42:227-235. DOI:10.3986/ac.v42i2-3.664