Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

First Advisor

Noah Fierer

Second Advisor

Pieter Johnson

Third Advisor

Eric Chwang


Methylotrophy is the ability of microorganisms to utilize single carbon compounds such as methanol (CH3OH), the second most abundant organic compound in the atmosphere. Methylotrophs have been recognized as the main drivers of methane fluxes, but their role with methanol fluxes have been overlooked. Understanding methanol degraders such as methylotrophs can help better our understanding of Earth’s systems to help us combat and understand climate change as well as soil ecosystem health. This study creates a basis for future examinations of the physiological attributes of specific methylotrophs; studies that would further our understanding of the methylotroph’s role in methanol exchange. We grew methylotrophic bacteria by plating a dilution of the soil onto methylotrophic specific media. The colonies on the plates were counted and sequenced for identification. We found that there was a decrease in the number of methylotrophs, and a difference between the community types of methylotrophs between different depths that were cultivated from a 12 cm deep soil core.