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Environmental Significace of the Groundwater-Surface Water Interaction Zone

WHONDRS Surface Water Sampling for Metabolite Biogeography

Sunset on the river


In collaboration with the Department of Energy's Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), WHONDRS is launching a global-scale investigation of surface water metabolites in streams. This study will provide broad understanding of factors governing the character of organic carbon that may be delivered to hyporheic zone sediments via hydrologic exchange. Such knowledge is essential as we develop hydrobiogeochemical models that explicitly represent the influences of organic carbon character on river corridor biogeochemical and microbial function. More generally, we conceptualize this study as examining the biogeography of metabolites, much like the biogeography of biological species (e.g., Delgado-Baquerizo et al. 2018). We are interested in a variety of interrelated science questions, such as:

  • Is a core metabolome shared across all streams? If so, what types of metabolites are shared and what types are not?
  • Are there aspects of historical discharge dynamics that consistently drive metabolite profiles across systems? Or, do watershed characteristics (e.g., wetland area) overwhelm influences of discharge dynamics?
  • Can we create a 'metabolite atlas' similar to the approach for soil microbes? If so, what metabolite properties can be mapped?
  • Approach

    To implement this study, a streamlined sampling kit has been designed that will be shipped to WHONDRS members throughout the world. The kit allows for simple, one-time surface water sampling. Samples will be shipped to EMSL for metabolomics analysis via Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance Mass Spectrometer (FTICR-MS) analysis and a suite of geochemical analyses. The filters used to collect the water samples will also be preserved and used for 16S rRNA gene sequencing. All costs are covered by PNNL, so collaborators just need to have the interest and time to collect the samples and provide some basic metadata (see below). The only constraint is that surface water stage or discharge data need to be available for the sampled stream at an interval of every two hours (or more) and for at least three months prior to sampling. As is always the case with WHONDRS, all data produced will be publicly available.

    Get involved

    If you'd like to participate, please contact us at , and spread the word to your colleagues! We will discuss the suitability of your sampling location with you and then ship you a sampling kit. You collect some simple meta-data (e.g., spatial coordinates of the sampling location), take the samples, and then ship them back to PNNL using a pre-paid shipping package. To help get the word out about WHONDRS and this metabolite biogeography effort, WHONDRS will have an exhibit booth at the AGU 2018 Fall Meeting. We hope to see you there!


    To help interpret the metabolite (and microbial) data, additional data types are needed. Please fill out the Metabolite Biogeography Metadata form with your data. As indicated in the form, some data types are required, while others are optional. In addition to spatial coordinates, one of the most important metadata types is river stage and/or discharge. Those data must exist for at least three months prior to sample collection, and be available for public dissemination. The stage/discharge data will also be public so they can be coupled with the FTICR-MS (and microbial community) data.


    As a collaborator, you will be contributing to a global community interested in advancing our collective knowledge of river corridor ecosystems. WHONDRS will cover costs and work with EMSL to generate and provide data in a timely and publicly accessible manner. The data are free to be used for any purpose, such as for manuscripts, presentations, and grant proposals. We ask that you email us at to let us know that you're using the data and acknowledge WHONDRS and the U.S. Department of Energy's Subsurface Biogeochemical Research program—which generously provides funding to WHONDRS—in your documents, presentations, etc. There is no obligation to include WHONDRS members as co-authors.