How many species inhabit our immediate surroundings? A straightforward collection technique suitable for answering this question is known to anyone who has ever driven a car at highway speeds.
The most prominent difference between the two trips is in the number of reads identified with green plants (Viridiplantae): 10,242 in trip A versus 612 in trip B. It is unlikely that a two orders of magnitude difference reflects a genuine variation in species abundance of such a ubiquitous taxonomic group between the two trips. Because during each trip we collected two samples (left and right sides of the vehicle; see Methods) we were able to trace the majority (9317) of Viridiplantae reads to the left subsample. The most likely explanation for this overabundance is that a piece of plant material (e.g., a leaf or stem fragment) adhered to the collection surface.
The list included unexpected entries such as the genus Homo even though the two trips were uneventful. Such matches are likely caused by road debris (which often includes roadkill) adhering to the collecting tape. Because few entries in NT and WGS databases are derived from, say, white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus, a prevalent large mammal roadkill in the northeastern United States), reads truly representing this speces are more likely to match abundant human sequences.
This is why our objective was to build a complete pipeline for homology-based taxonomic labeling of metagenomic reads that was self-contained and guided the user from data acquistion and QC, to database searches, and finally, actual metagenomic analyses. We demonstrate that the classification performance of our solution is on par with currently available applications...
Our second goal was to perform a eukaryotic metagenomic study on the organic matter collected on an automobile's windshield. Specifically, we were interested in addressing two questions: Can one identify eukaryotic taxa from random reads generated by the next-generation sequencing technology from environmental samples? and Is it possible to contrast species abundance between geographic locations? While this pilot analysis provides positive answers to both questions, it also raises important issues and limitations.
The front bumper of a 2006 Dodge Caravan ("The Wanderer") was divided at the license plate into "left" (passenger side) and "right" (driver side), and was taped with a double-sided carpet tape. On top of the carpet tape, a 3M 5414 Water Soluble Wave Solder Tape was affixed, exposing its sticky side. The tapes were applied on June 23, 2007, at 6 am EDT in State College, Pennsylvania, and removed in tubes containing Tris EDTA buffer at 12 pm EDT in Manchester, Connecticut. New tapes were again applied in Portland, Maine, at 5 pm EDT and removed in Moncton, New Brunswick, at 12 pm EDT the following day.Note that they named the vehicle (with a pretty good name, in my opinion), and they describe "left" and "right" in opposition to the common standard among drivers - their description is based on a person standing in front of the vehicle, facing the windshield; their "left" is the vehicle's starboard side, and "right" is port. It's extremely unlikely "The Wanderer" is a right-hand-drive vehicle.
Their software is web-based and available at: www.usegalaxy.org