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Dirt Map

Microbes are everywhere, and researchers taking part in the Earth Microbiome Project aim to find out how microorganisms living in soil help support other life on Earth, Jonathon Keats at Wired reports. Janet Jansson from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and her colleagues are collecting samples from a number of locations to tease out the DNA from such organisms.

"The plan is to build a global 'gene atlas,' then to work out how nutrients and waste products migrate through the ecosystem," Keats adds. "Eventually that understanding might allow us to engineer microbes to be ultraefficient producers of biofuel, or even take control of the carbon cycle."

Researchers are particularly interested in samples from the English Channel, farms in the Midwest US, and the Gulf of Mexico near the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. From those sites, they hope to better understand how "small things shape big ecosystems," Keats says.

The Scan

Billions for Antivirals

The US is putting $3.2 billion toward a program to develop antivirals to treat COVID-19 in its early stages, the Wall Street Journal reports.

NFT of the Web

Tim Berners-Lee, who developed the World Wide Web, is auctioning its original source code as a non-fungible token, Reuters reports.

23andMe on the Nasdaq

23andMe's shares rose more than 20 percent following its merger with a special purpose acquisition company, as GenomeWeb has reported.

Science Papers Present GWAS of Brain Structure, System for Controlled Gene Transfer

In Science this week: genome-wide association study ties variants to white matter stricture in the brain, and more.