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ISME J. 2009 Aug;3(8):881-8. doi: 10.1038/ismej.2009.56. Epub 2009 May 21.

Can the black box be cracked? The augmentation of microbial ecology by high-resolution, automated sensing technologies.

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Microbiology Doctoral Training Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI 53706, USA. SHADE@WISC.EDU


Automated sensing technologies, 'ASTs,' are tools that can monitor environmental or microbial-related variables at increasingly high temporal resolution. Microbial ecologists are poised to use AST data to couple microbial structure, function and associated environmental observations on temporal scales pertinent to microbial processes. In the context of aquatic microbiology, we discuss three applications of ASTs: windows on the microbial world, adaptive sampling and adaptive management. We challenge microbial ecologists to push AST potential in helping to reveal relationships between microbial structure and function.

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