Widespread antibiotic resistance among bacterial pathogens is providing the impetus to explore novel sources of antimicrobial agents. Recently, the potent antibacterial activity of certain clay minerals has stimulated scientific interest in these materials. One such example is Kisameet glacial clay (KC), an antibacterial clay from a deposit on the central coast of British Columbia, Canada. However, our understanding of the active principles of these complex natural substances is incomplete. Like soils, clays may possess complex mixtures of bacterial taxa, including the
Actinobacteria, a clade known to be rich in antibiotic-producing organisms. Here, we present the first characterization of both the microbial and geochemical characteristics of a glacial clay deposit. KC harbors surprising bacterial species richness, with at least three distinct community types. We show that the deposit has clines of inorganic elements that can be leached by pH, which may be drivers of community structure. We also note the prevalence of Gallionellaceaein samples recovered near the surface, as well as taxa that include medically or economically important bacteria such as Actinomycetesand Paenibacillus. These results provide insight into the microbial taxa that may be the source of KC antibacterial activity and suggest that natural clays may be rich sources of microbial and molecular diversity. IMPORTANCEIdentifying and characterizing the resident microbial populations (bacteria, viruses, protozoa, and fungi) is key to understanding the ecology, chemistry, and homeostasis of virtually all sites on Earth. The Kisameet Bay deposit in British Columbia, Canada, holds a novel glacial clay with a history of medicinal use by local indigenous people. We previously showed that it has potent activity against a variety of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, suggesting it could complement our dwindling arsenal of antibiotics. Here, we have characterized the microbiome of this deposit to gain insight into what might make the clay antibacterial. Our analyses suggest that the deposit contains a surprising diversity of bacteria, which live in at least three distinct environments. In addition, the clay harbors bacteria that may have interesting potential as biocontrol/bioremediation agents or producers of novel bioactive compounds.