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DOE Funds $2.5M Wetland Genomics Study

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) –The US Department of Energy has awarded a $2.5 million grant to a researcher at the DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI) to conduct metagenomics studies of microbial communities in wetlands around the San Francisco Bay-Delta region, JGI said Wednesday.

DOE's Office of Science awarded the Early Career Research grant to Susannah Green Tringe, a researcher in the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Genomics Division, to study how microbial communities in restored wetlands may impact long-term carbon sequestration, from a genomic perspective.

"Restoration of wetlands has the potential to remove significant amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, due to rapid accumulation of emergent vegetation and low rates of biomass decomposition in the anoxic soil," Tringe, head of JGI's Metagenome Program, wrote in her research proposal.

"Most of the long-term carbon storage takes place in the soil or sediment, yet little is known about the belowground microbial communities that are likely key determinants of the relative balance between carbon storage and atmospheric recycling," Tringe wrote.

The first year of the five-year study will focus on wetlands that have been restored on Twitchell Island in the Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta, an area shown by US Geological Survey studies to be effective in carbon sequestration. The sequestration rate in the area is 1 kilogram per square meter per year, which, according to Tringe, is comparable to or greater than rates in a tropical rainforest.

"In subsequent years I plan to sample and study additional wetlands, particularly brackish and saline in addition to the freshwater wetlands in the Delta," she said in a statement. "Specific sites for those aren't yet determined, but there are a lot of wetlands restoration projects all around the Bay."

DOE's Early Career Research Program supports assistant or associate professors who have received their PhDs in the past 10 years and are either untenured or on the tenure track, or full-time non-postdoctoral DOE national laboratory employees.

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