A hitchhiker’s guide to the new molecular toolbox for ecologists

Chris L. Dupont, Dreux Chappell, Ramiro Logares, and Maria Vila-Costa

Full Citation: Chris L. Dupont, Dreux Chappell, Ramiro Logares, and Maria Vila-Costa. 2010. A hitchhiker's guide to the new molecular toolbox for ecologists, p. 17-29. In P.F. Kemp [ed.], Eco-DAS VIII Symposium Proceedings. ASLO. [doi:10.4319/ecodas.2010.978-0-9845591-1-4.17]

ABSTRACT: Thirty years ago, marine microbes were described by crude morphology and the ability to grow on different carbon sources. Our understanding of their ecological role in aquatic environments was murky at best. Since then, the development of new molecular methods facilitated by DNA sequencing resulted in a revolution in the field of microbial molecular ecology and evolution. Plummeting sequencing costs and the resulting massive flux of data introduced novel challenges to marine microbiologists, in particular, and the infrastructure of science in general. In a cycle of positive feedbacks, a wide array of novel molecular and bioinformatic tools have been developed, addressing these challenges and allowing microbiologists to investigate subjects that previously stymied the field. Additionally, these advances fostered new connections between previously disparate disciplines. Here we provide a summary of the challenges of the new molecular toolkit, a history of the molecular revolution in microbial ecology, and a glimpse into the future. Finally, for the interested hitchhikers, we present a theoretical approach to integrating the new molecular toolkit into any ecological research program.