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University of Oklahoma to Study Tundra, Grassland Metagenomics

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Researchers from the University of Oklahoma will use a $3 million grant from the Department of Energy to support metagenomics-based studies of how climate change may affect microbial life in temperate grasslands and in tundra ecosystems.

Scientists at the school's Institute for Environmental Genomics (IEG) are aiming to use the long-term studies of two areas, grasslands in Oklahoma and the Alaskan tundra, to develop knowledge about the diversity of microbial communities, temperature sensitivity of soil organic matter, and microbial community structure, and how these all respond to climate change.

The studies will test whether different patterns of temperature sensitivity in soil respiration are dependent on the microbial community structure, functions, activities, and interactions.

The OU researchers will determine the phylogenetic and metabolic diversity in these microbial communities using a large-scale metagenomics approach and then more comprehensive gene arrays using a technology called GeoChip for monitoring the dynamics of these communities.
Developed in the lab of OU Professor Jizhong Zhou, who directs the IEG, the GeoChip microarray is designed for use in microbial community studies, and it can be used in systems such as bioreactors, soils, groundwaters, and in animal guts.

Metagenomic sequencing and array-based approaches also will be employed to determine how climate change may be affecting these communities.

In addition, the researchers plan to develop new network and modeling approaches for data integration, synthesis, and prediction based on random matrix theory and inverse analysis.

The studies should expand knowledge about microbial ecology in general, and could lead to the development of new experimental and mathematical tools that microbiologists can use to integrate and synthesize metagenomics data.