Anvi’o Workshop in Irvine, California

Where to find Anvi’o: http://merenlab.org/software/anvio/

What is Anvi’o: “Anvi’o is an open-source, community-driven analysis and visualization platform for ‘omics data.” (Definition taken directly from the software website)

On the 19th-20th of March 2018, I had the chance and privilege of attending a 2-days workshop on how to use Anvi’o as a tool to analyze my metagenomics data and produce cool figures. And Anvi’o is Open source! Open &*^$% Source! This is great that as a postdoc I get the chance to acquire new skills and I really appreciate the fact that my ACHRI and Cumming School of Medicine postdoctoral fellowship came with a 2K package to pay for workshops this year.

Here is the summary of my experience:

1. Meren is great but Anvi’o is greater.

I mean, the tutorial is smooth, well annotated in the website, and there is even a blog (with sassy humour all over it) written by users and managers alike.

Not only can you make amazing figures, and let’s be real, this helps to publish good papers, but you can also use Anvi’o to make sure your genome assembly is good. I haven’t had the time to explore yet all the possibilities Anvi’o offers, but it really seemed easy to explore and figure out. And the support community is real.

Only thing I would say, three days would be better. And I would liked to have a hands-on assignment on the third day where each participant would go through the whole process from the binning to the production of quality figures.

2. California, I miss you.

Coming from the Canadian winter… California smelled like summer, flowers, and earth. Wow. Can I go back?

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The end of a beginning

Now this is not the end.
It is not even the beginning of the end.
But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Sir Winston Churchill, 1942

Yesterday, 24th of May 2017, the third chapter of my thesis got published in Nature: read it! It is so incredible that I didn’t believe it until I saw it on the website…

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Here’s a synthesis:

As recent researches have demonstrated that microbes are crucial actors of human health, microbial organisms could also play a similar role for plants, driving key functions such as productivity. The work of Laforest-Lapointe et al. provides the first evidence that the diversity of microbes on tree leaves influences positively tree community productivity, a finding that has critical implication for forestry and agriculture, as well as for future fundamental research on microbial ecology.

Plant diversity is known to play a crucial role in the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems. Plant ecosystem productivity (the biomass produced by a community of plants) is a key ecosystem function both in natural ecosystems as well as in agriculture and forestry. The productivity of an ecosystem increases when a higher diversity of plants is present in the community. Previously, this correlation between productivity and diversity was attributed to the fact that when more species with different ecological niches are present in a community, the resources available in an ecosystem will be more fully utilized, leading to increased overall productivity. Recent advances in DNA sequencing technology have revealed the incredible diversity of microorganisms living on and in plant tissues – the plant “microbiome” – the combined genetic material of microorganisms living on plants. These plant-associated microbes can have important effects on the growth and health of individual plants, but their importance for ecosystem function is not well understood. In this study, Dr. Isabelle Laforest-Lapointe and colleagues demonstrate that the bacteria living on tree leaves can also influence ecosystem productivity, even after accounting for the role of plant diversity. The research team, including Isabelle Laforest-Lapointe (UQAM), Alain Paquette (UQAM), Christian Messier (UQAM/UQO) and Steven Kembel (UQAM) measured and quantified the diversity of bacteria living on tree leaves in a biodiversity experiment with trees (IDENT) established near Montréal, Canada, where trees were planted in different combinations of species diversity and functional diversity and the productivity of these tree communities was measured after several years of growth. Through sequencing of bacterial barcode genes, the research team quantified the number of different bacterial taxa living on each tree. The principal finding of this study was that tree communities whose leaves host a more diverse set of bacterial taxa were more productive, producing more biomass even after accounting for the importance of plant diversity. This discovery suggests that the plant microbiome could play a key role in terrestrial ecosystem productivity, and that models of the relationship between plant diversity and ecosystem productivity could be extended by adding information on the microbial communities associated with plants. The study also demonstrated that plant diversity influences microbial diversity on leaves, with each tree species possessing a distinctive bacterial community, and with trees growing amongst a diverse set of neighbour trees tending to have a higher diversity of bacteria on their leaves than trees growing among trees from the same species. This study suggests that leaf microbiome diversity could play a key role for terrestrial ecosystem productivity, a discovery having multiple potential beneficial consequences in agriculture and forestry, as well as for fundamental research on the roles of multitrophic networks in terrestrial ecosystems and the theories that attempt to explain relationships between biodiversity and ecosystem function.


Now I am not a Ph.D. student anymore. Today marks the day of my first pay as a Postdoctoral fellow at the University of Calgary, Cumming School of Medicine, Depts. of Physiology and Pharmacology & Pediatrics, under the supervision of the excellent Dr. Marie-Claire Arrieta.

From working on microbes inhabiting the leaves of trees, I will now be looking at samples of infant intestinal microbes or mice microbes! Poop it is!

Introduction

Hi, welcome to my blog. This platform is used as a tool to diffuse my academic projects, thoughts, and experiments, including:

  • a description of my Ph.D. project under the supervision of Pr. Steven Kembel (http://kembellab.ca) and of my experience as a graduate student;
  • of my Postdoctoral fellowship with Pr. Marie-Claire Arrieta (Arrieta Lab) at the University of Calgary;
  • and finally of my new lab started in January 2020 at the Université de Sherbrooke!

If you have a question or interest in my projects feel free to contact me! isabelle.laforest.lapointe at gmail.com / Isabelle.laforest-lapointe at uSherbrooke.ca

Postdoctoral Fellowship (2017-2019)

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My projects at the University of Calgary involve the microorganisms that inhabit our gut. Sadly it is much less fun to extract the DNA of microbes from poop than from tree leaves! But it is very interesting to investigate how the early-life microbial communities (potentially in the first 3 years of life, while the gut bacterial diversity is increasing at a fast pace) contribute to the training of the immune system and reduce the risk of developing allergies and asthma later in life. Although most gut microbiome studies have focused on bacterial communities, micro-eukaryotes could also play a key role in driving the early-life immune development. One of our hypotheses is that fungal communities in the human gut are regulated by their bacterial counterparts, but when antibiotics are given in early-life these eukaryotes suddenly reach new niches to exploit (left void by the sudden decrease in bacterial diversity) and this fungal overgrowth could create an deranged mucosal immunity leading to higher prevalence of asthma and allergies. We are also interested by the question of diversity vs. functions: we are wondering if it is diversity driving the immune development or is it the presence of key microbial fonctions? Another project of interest to me is the relative of top-down vs. bottom-up processes in controlling the host-microbe and microbe-microbe interactions in the human gut. I am using my expertise in microbial ecology, bioinformatics, genomics, statistics, and microbiology to pursue these highly interesting questions. As you can imagine this is a pretty big leap for me coming from a Biology Department to a Medical Health Department but the challenges are what shape us as scientists and I have never been more excited about my work!

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Bacteria and fungi colonize almost all plant surfaces and tissues, from the roots (rhizosphere) to the leaves (phyllosphere). The diversity of these communities regulates several ecosystem functions, principally through its implication in enzymatic processes (nutritional, defensive and biochemical). Microorganisms are characterized by a high surface/volume, rapid growth and short generation time, allowing microbes to respond quickly to any environmental modifications. Every change in microbial biomass, metabolic activity or community structure could be considered the beginning of a global ecosystem change. Since 2000, a major revolution has affected microbial studies as the development of high-throughput sequencing methods has freed researchers from culture-dependent methods that limited census sampling depth and quality. Whereas various studies have quantified the soil microbial community’s key role in regulating plant community formation and dynamics, an insufficient number of studies have looked at phyllosphere microbial communities and the role they play in forest ecosystem dynamics. Some recent results suggest a very high complexity of phyllosphere microbial community dynamics, but the key determinants of the structure and variation of the leaf-habitat communities still need to be identified.

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Recent innovation in sequencing techniques has allowed the first complete, affordable and rapid microbial censuses. The aim of this project is to establish essential knowledge of the processes driving phyllosphere microbial community dynamics in the temperate forests of Quebec. This project has three objectives: (1) to identify macroscopic determinants of phyllosphere microbial community composition in natural temperate forests; (2) to determine microscale determinants of phyllosphere microbial dynamics of temperate trees; and (3) to test and observe the effects of urban stress on phyllosphere microbial community of urban trees in Montreal.


Here are other contributions in writing and videos:

QIAGEN Q & A

QIAGEN Webinar

Les années lumières – Radio-Canada

Découvertes de l’année Québec Science

UQAM TV

Contribution to Science Presse – Blogue ta science

CEF-CFR Profile