Supervised Machine Learning Enables Geospatial Microbial Provenance

Chandrima Bhattacharya, Braden T. Tierney, Krista A. Ryon, Malay Bhattacharyya, Jaden J.A. Hastings, Srijani Basu, Bodhisatwa Bhattacharya, Debneel Bagchi, Somsubhro Mukherjee, Lu Wang, Elizabeth M. Henaff, Christopher E. Mason

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The recent increase in publicly available metagenomic datasets with geospatial metadata has made it possible to determine location-specific, microbial fingerprints from around the world. Such fingerprints can be useful for comparing microbial niches for environmental research, as well as for applications within forensic science and public health. To determine the regional specificity for environmental metagenomes, we examined 4305 shotgun-sequenced samples from the MetaSUB Consortium dataset-the most extensive public collection of urban microbiomes, spanning 60 different cities, 30 countries, and 6 continents. We were able to identify city-specific microbial fingerprints using supervised machine learning (SML) on the taxonomic classifications, and we also compared the performance of ten SML classifiers. We then further evaluated the five algorithms with the highest accuracy, with the city and continental accuracy ranging from 85-89% to 90-94%, respectively. Thereafter, we used these results to develop Cassandra, a random-forest-based classifier that identifies bioindicator species to aid in fingerprinting and can infer higher-order microbial interactions at each site. We further tested the Cassandra algorithm on the Tara Oceans dataset, the largest collection of marine-based microbial genomes, where it classified the oceanic sample locations with 83% accuracy. These results and code show the utility of SML methods and Cassandra to identify bioindicator species across both oceanic and urban environments, which can help guide ongoing efforts in biotracing, environmental monitoring, and microbial forensics (MF).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1914
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 21 2022


  • bioindicator species
  • metagenomics
  • microbial fingerprint
  • microbial forensics
  • supervised machine learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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