Research Topic

Crowdsourced Understanding of Global River Organic Matter Composition through the Lens of Ecological Theory

About this Research Topic

Though community-based scientific approaches are becoming more common, many efforts are conducted by small groups of researchers that together develop a concept, analyse data, and interpret results that ultimately translate into a publication. Here, we present a crowdsourced effort that breaks these traditional boundaries of the publication process by engaging the scientific community from initial hypothesis generation to final publication.

The scientific focus of this research topic is on the application of ecological concepts to ultrahigh resolution properties of organic matter (OM) composition in both surface water and sediments across diverse river corridors. OM composition has strong influences on river corridor biogeochemistry, yet there is limited understanding of how detailed properties of OM vary across river corridors. Associated knowledge gaps limit our collective ability to develop predictive models that include influences of OM composition over microbial metabolism and emergent biogeochemical function in river corridors. A premise of this research topic is that we can develop understanding that is transferable across river corridors by studying OM composition through the lens of ecological concepts such as species-area scaling, ‘community’ assembly, and core-satellite ‘species.’

This research topic will advance understanding of river corridor OM composition by linking crowdsourced methods with a unified, publicly available dataset of OM composition. The dataset contains multiple data types, but is centered on Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FTICR-MS) due to this method providing ultrahigh resolution, untargeted characterization of OM. All articles contributed to the research topic will use this publicly available dataset, and augment it with other existing data (e.g., remote sensing) as needed based on specific questions of interest. Using a single, existing dataset will provide unique opportunities for emergent learning by connecting outcomes across studies. It also allows anyone interested to contribute as there is no need to generate new data.

Key to this research topic is the use of crowdsourcing throughout the research life cycle. With our first step aimed at ideation, we led a virtual workshop (April 2021) to engage a community of scientists from 20 countries and 60 institutions, spanning disciplines and career stages. In the workshop, participants generated content for questions, hypotheses, and proposed analyses based on the focal dataset. These ideation efforts resulted in several narratives investigating different questions led by different teams. These narratives will be the basis for research articles in the topic collection, all written collectively through crowdsourced methods. This means that writing and analyses will be done by groups of scientists (with unlimited participation) that have likely not worked together previously and span disciplines and institutions.

The dataset to be used in all the articles is from samples collected through a crowdsourced effort via the Worldwide Hydrobiogeochemistry Observation Network for Dynamic River Systems (WHONDRS) consortium. Specifically, the dataset spans 97 river corridors from 8 countries with surface water and sediments collected from each river for a suite of physical, chemical, and biological analyses.

This research topic aims to explore river OM composition through an ecological lens using the WHONDRS dataset, including but not limited to publications:
- Exploring global river corridor OM chemistry through application of the ecological concept of core and satellite species, which are molecules found in nearly all or in very few rivers, respectively;
- Understanding the sources of organic molecules in river corridors;
- Analyzing biochemical transformations of OM;
- Examining variation in deterministic (e.g., selective production) and stochastic (e.g., spatial diffusion) processes influencing which molecules are found in OM assemblages;
- Quantifying scaling relationships of OM that identifies how number of unique organic molecules observed increases with the number of rivers surveyed;
- Using model-driven identification of molecular signatures in OM controlling biogeochemical transformations; and,
- Outlining methods for FTICR-MS data application, analysis, and visualization.

We invite scientists of all levels and disciplines to join an effort to advance our knowledge of OM composition across global river corridors while further developing open science methods. Participation is open to scientists who are excited about ecological principles, river corridor science, and/or advancing open science, and that want to contribute to crowdsourced publications that use ecological principles to better understand OM chemistry in river corridors. These crowdsourced publications will be written by many authors spanning diverse backgrounds; if you are interested in joining a team for one of the specific topics above or starting your own topic manuscript, please click the participate button and we will facilitate your involvement. We are committed to this effort enabling a greater diversity of thinking on river corridor biogeochemistry, resulting in unexpected ideas, faster problem solving, and a large network of collaborators. Research articles, case studies, and review articles are welcome.


Keywords: crowdsourced science, hydrobiogeochemistry, FTICR-MS, organic matter chemistry, river corridor, hyporheic zone


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Though community-based scientific approaches are becoming more common, many efforts are conducted by small groups of researchers that together develop a concept, analyse data, and interpret results that ultimately translate into a publication. Here, we present a crowdsourced effort that breaks these traditional boundaries of the publication process by engaging the scientific community from initial hypothesis generation to final publication.

The scientific focus of this research topic is on the application of ecological concepts to ultrahigh resolution properties of organic matter (OM) composition in both surface water and sediments across diverse river corridors. OM composition has strong influences on river corridor biogeochemistry, yet there is limited understanding of how detailed properties of OM vary across river corridors. Associated knowledge gaps limit our collective ability to develop predictive models that include influences of OM composition over microbial metabolism and emergent biogeochemical function in river corridors. A premise of this research topic is that we can develop understanding that is transferable across river corridors by studying OM composition through the lens of ecological concepts such as species-area scaling, ‘community’ assembly, and core-satellite ‘species.’

This research topic will advance understanding of river corridor OM composition by linking crowdsourced methods with a unified, publicly available dataset of OM composition. The dataset contains multiple data types, but is centered on Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FTICR-MS) due to this method providing ultrahigh resolution, untargeted characterization of OM. All articles contributed to the research topic will use this publicly available dataset, and augment it with other existing data (e.g., remote sensing) as needed based on specific questions of interest. Using a single, existing dataset will provide unique opportunities for emergent learning by connecting outcomes across studies. It also allows anyone interested to contribute as there is no need to generate new data.

Key to this research topic is the use of crowdsourcing throughout the research life cycle. With our first step aimed at ideation, we led a virtual workshop (April 2021) to engage a community of scientists from 20 countries and 60 institutions, spanning disciplines and career stages. In the workshop, participants generated content for questions, hypotheses, and proposed analyses based on the focal dataset. These ideation efforts resulted in several narratives investigating different questions led by different teams. These narratives will be the basis for research articles in the topic collection, all written collectively through crowdsourced methods. This means that writing and analyses will be done by groups of scientists (with unlimited participation) that have likely not worked together previously and span disciplines and institutions.

The dataset to be used in all the articles is from samples collected through a crowdsourced effort via the Worldwide Hydrobiogeochemistry Observation Network for Dynamic River Systems (WHONDRS) consortium. Specifically, the dataset spans 97 river corridors from 8 countries with surface water and sediments collected from each river for a suite of physical, chemical, and biological analyses.

This research topic aims to explore river OM composition through an ecological lens using the WHONDRS dataset, including but not limited to publications:
- Exploring global river corridor OM chemistry through application of the ecological concept of core and satellite species, which are molecules found in nearly all or in very few rivers, respectively;
- Understanding the sources of organic molecules in river corridors;
- Analyzing biochemical transformations of OM;
- Examining variation in deterministic (e.g., selective production) and stochastic (e.g., spatial diffusion) processes influencing which molecules are found in OM assemblages;
- Quantifying scaling relationships of OM that identifies how number of unique organic molecules observed increases with the number of rivers surveyed;
- Using model-driven identification of molecular signatures in OM controlling biogeochemical transformations; and,
- Outlining methods for FTICR-MS data application, analysis, and visualization.

We invite scientists of all levels and disciplines to join an effort to advance our knowledge of OM composition across global river corridors while further developing open science methods. Participation is open to scientists who are excited about ecological principles, river corridor science, and/or advancing open science, and that want to contribute to crowdsourced publications that use ecological principles to better understand OM chemistry in river corridors. These crowdsourced publications will be written by many authors spanning diverse backgrounds; if you are interested in joining a team for one of the specific topics above or starting your own topic manuscript, please click the participate button and we will facilitate your involvement. We are committed to this effort enabling a greater diversity of thinking on river corridor biogeochemistry, resulting in unexpected ideas, faster problem solving, and a large network of collaborators. Research articles, case studies, and review articles are welcome.


Keywords: crowdsourced science, hydrobiogeochemistry, FTICR-MS, organic matter chemistry, river corridor, hyporheic zone


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

31 July 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

31 July 2022 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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