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Jane Lee

The importance of thermophiles is indisputable, given their role as models for early life and their potential as a source for biologically active enzymes and compounds. Despite requiring high temperatures for growth, thermophiles are ubiquitous in temperate soils. Here, we examine thermophiles in the usually temperate soils of Centralia, Pennsylvania, an environment generally not apt for thermophiles to grow. However, Centralia is the site of a burning underground coal fire since 1962 which elevated soil temperatures, allowing thermophiles to grow, and us to observe genes of thermophiles important for their success in normally temperate soils. This study explores these thermophiles’ genes by studying twelve distinct sites from Centralia with temperatures between 12.1°C and 57.4°C. This study takes into consideration two datasets: DNA of thermophiles cultured at 60°C from the hottest soil at the time of collection, and DNA directly extracted from this soil. We quality control sequenced DNA from the two original datasets and assemble it. We binned the contigs into sixteen metagenome assembled genomes (MAGs) based on their abundance patterns and tetranucleotide frequency, of which seven were > 50% complete and < 10% contaminated. We quality controlled MAGs and determined their taxonomy using the Microbial Genomes Atlas. Ultimately, we observe these MAGs’ response patterns to the fire and annotate their gene content to identify genes important for thermophile growth. The results and processes from this examination could be applied to a legion of different ideas relating to changes in gene content in a variety of organisms.