Microbial Biodiversity of the Atmosphere
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Microorganisms are critical to the functioning of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and may also play a role in the functioning of the atmosphere. However, little is known about the diversity and function of microorganisms in the atmosphere. To investigate the forces driving the assembly of bacterial microbial communities in the atmosphere, I measured temporal variation in bacterial diversity and composition over diurnal and inter-day time scales. Results suggest that bacterial communities in the atmosphere markedly vary over diurnal time scales and are likely structured by inputs from both local terrestrial and long-distance sources. To assess the potential functions of bacteria and fungi in the atmosphere, I characterized total and potentially active communities using both RNA- and DNA-based data. Results suggest there are metabolically active microorganisms in the atmosphere that may affect atmospheric functions including precipitation development and carbon cycling. This dissertation includes previously published and unpublished co-authored material.