Laura Hug


Canada Research Chair in Environmental Microbiology

Tier 2 - 2017-11-01
University of Waterloo
Natural Sciences and Engineering

519-888-4567, ext./poste 31151
laura.hug@uwaterloo.ca

Coming to Canada From


University of California, Berkeley, United States

Research involves


Using metagenomics and enrichment cultures to define microbial diversity and function at contaminated sites.

Research relevance


This research will increase our understanding of microbial diversity and processes in contaminated environments, and lead to bioremediation tools to deal with them.

Man’s Trash is a Microbe’s Treasure


Human activity has led to widespread contamination of our environment—from oil plumes in the oceans to landfills across the globe. But many of these contaminants can be converted to less toxic, or completely innocuous, substances by microorganisms in our environment. These microbial activities could be used for remediation efforts—but the vast majority of microbial metabolic potential remains unknown.

Human activity has led to widespread contamination of our environment—from oil plumes in the oceans to landfillsDr. Laura Hug, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Microbiology, seeks to define microbial diversity at contaminated sites and identify currently unknown metabolic functions. She and her research team are sequencing the total DNA and RNA of a microbial community from a contaminated site. This will generate a blueprint of which species exist there and which pathways are active.

Human activity has led to widespread contamination of our environment—from oil plumes in the oceans to landfillsTo develop new bioremediation tools, Hug and her team are capturing activities of interest through enrichment culturing, where a less complex community is maintained in the laboratory. By using genome-enabled metabolic modelling and tracking contaminant degradation in the laboratory, they will be able to shed light on how microbes are shaping the environment.

Human activity has led to widespread contamination of our environment—from oil plumes in the oceans to landfillsHug and her team are also looking at essential questions in biology, such as: How do organisms adapt to harsh conditions at contaminated sites? How and when did their ability to degrade a man-made product evolve? In what ways are microbial communities more than the sum of their parts, and do these interactions drive global cycles?

Human activity has led to widespread contamination of our environment—from oil plumes in the oceans to landfillsUltimately, Hug’s research will expand our understanding of the “tree of life” while simultaneously developing concrete solutions to address the impacts of human activities on the environment.