New multi-scale perspectives on the stromatolites of Shark Bay, Western Australia

Published: June 8th, 2016

Category: Uncategorized


A recent field-intensive program in Shark Bay, Western Australia provides new multi-scale perspectives on the world’s most extensive modern stromatolite system. Mapping revealed a unique geographic distribution of morphologically distinct stromatolite structures, many of them previously undocumented. These distinctive structures combined with characteristic shelf physiography define eight ‘Stromatolite Provinces’. Morphological and molecular studies of microbial mat composition resulted in a revised growth model where coccoid cyanobacteria predominate in mat communities forming lithified discrete stromatolite buildups. This contradicts traditional views that stromatolites with the best lamination in Hamelin Pool are formed by filamentous cyanobacterial mats. Finally, analysis of internal fabrics of stromatolites revealed pervasive precipitation of microcrystalline carbonate (i.e. micrite) in microbial mats forming framework and cement that may be analogous to the micritic microstructures typical of Precambrian stromatolites. These discoveries represent fundamental advances in our knowledge of the Shark Bay microbial system, laying a foundation for detailed studies of stromatolite morphogenesis that will advance our understanding of benthic ecosystems on the early Earth.

Read the full article here!

Learn more about Dr. Jamie Foster! – visit her website

Associate Professorfoster

Department of Microbiology and Cell Science University of Florida

B.S. (1992) University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
M.S. (1996) University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Ph.D. (2000) University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI

For more details on  Jamie Foster’s research and educational activities please 
go to:

Contact Information

Fax: 321-861-2925

Teaching Interests

Astrobiology – Topics discussed in this class will include the origin and evolution of life on Earth, the search for life elsewhere in the solar system, and the future of human space exploration.

General Area

Environmental  microbiology, metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, microbial ecology.

Description of Research

General Area:

The overall objective of my research program is to examine the formation and ecology of lithifying microbial communities known as microbialites.

My research interests can be summarized into three main questions:

1. What mechanisms do microbes use to initiate these complex symbioses?

2. How do microbes living in complex symbiotic communities adapt and respond to a changing climate (e.g. elevated carbon dioxide, lower pH) and environmental stress (e.g. UV radiation, desiccation, and oxidative stress)?

3. What molecular and biochemical mechanisms are required by microbes to tolerate and grow in space and Mars-like ecosystems?

By examining how microbes interact amongst themselves and their environment, I believed that a greater understanding can be obtained of how complex microbial communities may have originated and evolved throughout Earth’s history. Microbialitic mats, a model for early Earth ecosystems, are complex community structures that contain a diverse array of microbes and are under constant exposure to external and internal stresses. My research attempts to elucidate the required genetic and biochemical mechanisms by which microbialitic mats communities are initiated, established and maintained.

Selected Publications

Title: Role of Hfq in an animal-microbe symbiosis under simulated microgravity conditions
Author(s): Grant, KC (Grant, Kyle C.); Khodadad, CLM (Khodadad, Christina L. M.); Foster, JS (Foster, Jamie S.)
Source: INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF ASTROBIOLOGY Volume: 13 Issue: 1 Pages: 53-61 Published: JAN 2014

Title: Metabolic potential of lithifying cyanobacteria-dominated thrombolitic mats
Author(s): Mobberley, J (Mobberley, Jennifer M.); Khodadad, C (Khodadad, Christina L. M.); Foster, J (Foster, Jamie S.)
Source: PHOTOSYNTHESIS RESEARCH Volume: 118 Issue: 1-2 Special Issue: SI Pages: 125-140 Published: NOV 2013

Title: Cultivation and Complete Genome Sequencing of Gloeobacter kilaueensis sp nov., from a Lava Cave in Kilauea Caldera, Hawai’i
Author(s): Saw, JHW (Saw, Jimmy H. W.); Schatz, M (Schatz, Michael); Brown, MV (Brown, Mark V.); Kunkel, DD (Kunkel, Dennis D.); Foster, JS (Foster, Jamie S.); Shick, H (Shick, Harry); Christensen, S (Christensen, Stephanie); Hou, SB (Hou, Shaobin); Wan, XH (Wan, Xuehua); Donachie, SP (Donachie, Stuart P.)
Source: PLOS ONE Volume: 8 Issue: 10 Article Number: e76376 Published: OCT 23 2013

Title: Perennial peanut (Arachis glabrata Benth.) contains polyphenol oxidase (PPO) and PPO substrates that can reduce post-harvest proteolysis
Author(s): Sullivan, ML (Sullivan, Michael L.); Foster, JL (Foster, Jamie L.)
Source: JOURNAL OF THE SCIENCE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURE Volume: 93 Issue: 10 Pages: 2421-2428 Published: AUG 2013

Title: Impact of simulated microgravity on the normal developmental time line of an animal-bacteria symbiosis
Author(s): Foster, JS (Foster, Jamie S.); Khodadad, CLM (Khodadad, Christina L. M.); Ahrendt, SR (Ahrendt, Steven R.); Parrish, ML (Parrish, Mirina L.)
Source: SCIENTIFIC REPORTS Volume: 3 Article Number: 1340 Published: FEB 26 2013

Title: Effects of Row Spacing, Seeding Rate, and Planting Date on Establishment of Switchgrass
Author(s): Foster, JL (Foster, Jamie L.); Guretzky, JA (Guretzky, John A.); Huo, CJ (Huo, Chengjun); Kering, MK (Kering, Maru K.); Butler, TJ (Butler, Twain J.)
Source: CROP SCIENCE Volume: 53 Issue: 1 Pages: 309-314 Published: JAN 2013

Title: Safening of Native Grass to Herbicides by Using Carbon Bands
Author(s): Grichar, WJ (Grichar, W. James); Lloyd-Reilley, J (Lloyd-Reilley, John); Rahmes, J (Rahmes, Jeff); Ocumpaugh, WR (Ocumpaugh, W. R.); Foster, JL (Foster, Jamie L.)
Source: WEED TECHNOLOGY Volume: 26 Issue: 3 Pages: 499-505 Published: JUL-SEP 2012

Title: Environmental controls on microbial community cycling in modern marine stromatolites
Author(s): Bowlin, EM (Bowlin, Emily M.); Klaus, JS (Klaus, James S.); Foster, JS (Foster, Jamie S.); Andres, MS (Andres, Miriam S.); Custals, L (Custals, Lillian); Reid, RP (Reid, R. Pamela)
Source: SEDIMENTARY GEOLOGY Volume: 263 Special Issue: SI Pages: 45-55 Published: JUL 1 2012

Title: Metagenomic and Metabolic Profiling of Nonlithifying and Lithifying Stromatolitic Mats of Highborne Cay, The Bahamas
Author(s): Khodadad, CLM (Khodadad, Christina L. M.); Foster, JS (Foster, Jamie S.)
Source: PLOS ONE Volume: 7 Issue: 5 Article Number: e38229 Published: MAY 25 2012

Author(s): Richardson, G (Richardson, Giles); Please, C (Please, Colin); Foster, J (Foster, Jamie); Kirkpatrick, J (Kirkpatrick, James)
Source: SIAM JOURNAL ON APPLIED MATHEMATICS Volume: 72 Issue: 6 Pages: 1792-1817 Published: 2012

Title: Comparative microbial diversity analyses of modern marine thrombolitic mats by barcoded pyrosequencing
Author(s): Mobberley, JM (Mobberley, Jennifer M.); Ortega, MC (Ortega, Maya C.); Foster, JS (Foster, Jamie S.)
Source: ENVIRONMENTAL MICROBIOLOGY Volume: 14 Issue: 1 Special Issue: SI Pages: 82-100 Published: JAN 2012

Title: Taxa-specific changes in soil microbial community composition induced by pyrogenic carbon amendments
Author(s): Khodadad, CLM (Khodadad, Christina L. M.); Zimmerman, AR (Zimmerman, Andrew R.); Green, SJ (Green, Stefan J.); Uthandi, S (Uthandi, Sivakumar); Foster, JS (Foster, Jamie S.)
Source: SOIL BIOLOGY & BIOCHEMISTRY Volume: 43 Issue: 2 Pages: 385-392 Published: FEB 2011

Reid, P., J.S. Foster, G. Radtke, S. Golubic (2010) Modern marine stromatolites of Little Darby Island, Exuma Archipelago, Bahamas: environmental setting, accretion mechanisms and role of euendoliths. In: Stromatolites – Kalkowsky-Symposium, (Reitner, J; Thrauth, M.H.; Stüwe, K.; Yuen, D., Eds.) Springer, Berlin in press.

Foster, J.S., and S.J. Green (2010) Microbial diversity in modern marine stromatolites. In: Cellular Origin, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology: Stromatolites (Tewari, V. ed) Springer, in press.

Myshrall, K.L., J.M. Mobberley, S.J. Green, P.T. Visscher, S.A. Havemann, R.P. Reid and J.S. Foster (2010) Biogeochemical cycling and microbial diversity in the modern marine thrombolites of Highborne Cay, Bahamas. Geobiology. DOI: 10.1111/j.1472-4669.2010.00245.x

Foster, J.S. and J.M. Mobberley (2010) Past, present, and future: microbial mats as models for astrobiological research. In: Cellular Origin, Life in Extreme Habitats and Astrobiology: Microbial Mats: Modern and Ancient Microorganisms in Stratified Systems. (J. Seckbach and A. Oren, eds.) Springer, pp. 563-582

Foster, J.S., S.J. Green, S.R. Ahrendt, S. Golubic, R.P. Reid, K.L. Hetherington, and L. Bebout. (2009) Molecular and morphological characterization of cyanobacterial diversity in the marine stromatolites of Highborne Cay, Bahamas. ISME Journal 3:573-587.

Foster, J.S., S.A. Havemann, A.K. Singh, and L.A. Sherman (2009) Role of mrgA in peroxide and light stress in the cyanobacterium Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803. FEMS Microbiology Letters 293:298-304.

Foster, J.S., and Drew, J.C. (2009).Astrobiology undergraduate education: students’ knowledge and perceptions of the field. Astrobiology 9:325-333.

Stolz, J.F., R.P. Reid, P.T. Visscher, A.W. Decho, R.S. Norman, R.J. Aspden, E.M. Bowlin, J. Franks, J.S. Foster, D.M. Paterson, K.M. Przekop, G.J.C. Underwood, and L. Prufert-Bebout (2009) The microbial communities of the modern marine stromatolites at Highborne Cay, Bahamas. Atoll Research Bulletin 567:1-24.

Havemann, S. A. and J. S. Foster (2008) A comparative characterization of the microbial diversity in an artificial microbialite model and a natural stromatolite. Applied Environmental Microbiology 74: 7410-7421.

Foster, Jamie S. and Stephanie A. Havemann (2008) The basics of educational podcasting: enhancing the student learning experience. University of Florida, IFAS-EDIS publication MB004


Comments are currently closed.