On the 21st and 22nd of June, my supervisor Dr Ana Lanham and me participated in the MiDAS Global Database Workshop. The workshop was organised by the Center for Microbial Communities from Aalborg University, in Denmark, by the team of researchers led by Prof Per H Nielsen. Our participation in the workshop resulted from the collaboration with the team by contributing samples from different wastewater treatment plants around Bath and East Anglia.
MiDAS stands for Microbial Database for Activated Sludge and is a collaborative platform that aims to combine all knowledge on the microbial ecology of engineered ecosystems of activated sludge plants, anaerobic digesters, and related wastewater treatment systems. The database provides a taxonomic classification of the microbes found in wastewater treatment. The idea is to provide a reference for researchers and plant operators to identify the microbial composition of a sample. The ultimate goal is to establish a common language in microbial ecology research with the correlation of identity with function of the organisms. This knowledge can then be translated into the operation and control of full-scale systems.
The team that coordinates and curates the MiDAS database are in the process of performing a global survey to determine the microbial composition of different biological wastewater systems using cutting-edge genetic sequencing techniques. The output of this analysis determines the taxonomy of the main organisms in each system and their relative abundance in the microbial community. It also compares the microbial communities across wastewater treatment technologies in different areas of the globe. Such an extensive survey provides a lot of data about the microbiology of biological wastewater treatment and new insights on potential microbial fingerprints.
During the workshop, the latest updates on MiDAS were presented with follow-up discussion on how the platform can be disseminated and improved. Invited speakers also presented recent trends on microbial ecology research, such as the relevance of time series studies by Prof Tom Curtis (Newcastle University) and Dr Rohan Williams (SCELSE, Singapore).
The participation on the MiDAS workshop was a very valuable experience. First, it is a great example of how collaboration between research groups and water utilities can result in such a comprehensive platform from which all researchers can benefit from. It was also a valuable opportunity to contact with renowned researchers that lead the trends in microbial ecology which is the main topic of my PhD project. It was equally important to expand my knowledge and reflect on how I can improve my work to be more meaningful.