Field of Science

Evolutionary metagenomics

We would like to know how soil bacteria evolve. They are important for humans and other living things, as they are involved in chemical processes that are both beneficial and harmful to us. They emit and absorb greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), and they are part of the nitrogen cycle, which is important for agriculture. Which you care about even if you don’t eat your veggies.

There is a reason why soil bacteria are not model organisms in biology. They are hard to study because they are difficult to grow in the laboratory. Also, there are many different species of soil bacteria, so even if we did mange to grow a couple in the lab, we would not likely learn much about the overall function of the bacterial communities in soil. So what to do?

You take a handful of soil and you sequence that – after removing earthworms. Simple. It’s called metagenomics.

Read the rest on BEACON's blog.

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