Beyond the limits of our senses exists an infinitely diverse microbial world. This microcosmos extends into virtually every imaginable habitat, thrives under powerful extremes, and helps create and sustain essential biogeochemical cycles. Because the vast majority of microorganisms resist laboratory cultivation, our views on the extent and meaning of microbial diversity have long been impaired. A modern scientific synthesis called environmental genomics, also known as metagenomics, is now unfolding with great potential to reveal the genetic and phenotypic plasticity of naturally occurring microbial communities as they relate to Earth Systems, environmental health and human disease. At present, we are engaged in four major science themes related to microbial communities inhabiting natural and human engineered environments.
In the first, we are exploring microbial communities mediating carbon, nitrogen, and sulphur cycling in marine sediments and expanding oxygen minimum zones. In the second, we are exploring microbial communities involved in forest soil productivity and lignocellulose conversion, explosives decontamination, and passive mine remediation. In the third, we are exploring microbial communities inhabiting hydrocarbon resource environments including coal beds, oil sands, and shale gas deposits. Finally, in the fourth, we are exploring molecular mechanisms underlying archaeal-sponge symbiosis to gain insight into the evolution and modulation of innate immunity. All four science themes share in common a core set of interdisciplinary tools and approaches used to evaluate the functional properties of uncultivated microorganisms, and all four view microbial communities as cellular constituents within the body of an ecosystem that provide useful or essential nutritional, energetic and detoxification services.
Research Themes >
Research Themes >