The Ecosystems Biology Program focuses on discovering and understanding the molecular basis of microbial interactions, including specific gene functions, species interactions, and community dynamics under a variety of environmental conditions, ranging from soil and sediments to human and invertebrate guts. The Program also develops technology that enables such understanding. A prime example of advanced technology is the DOE-supported Berkeley Synchrotron Infrared Structural Biology (BSISB) imaging program at the Advanced Light Source, which enables live cell chemical imaging and single-cell metabolic phenotyping of living cells by SF-FTIR spectromicroscopy.
A hallmark characteristic of research in this program is the ability to combine tools of modern molecular biology and biochemistry with biogeochemical and isotopic analyses, and mathematical modeling to determine the relationships between microbial composition, metabolic potential and critical biogeochemical processes across Earth’s ecosystems. Research projects in this program include the study of soil carbon transformation and sequestration, microbial nutrient mobilization for plant productivity and the sustainable cultivation of bioenergy relevant crops, each within the context of ecosystems that are subject to climate or land-use change. As a founding group in the Microbes-to-Biomes initiative, our research spans molecules to ecosystems, with specific emphases on soil-plant-microbe interactions, interactions between microbes and metazoans (from humans to insects and soil fauna), and understanding the origin and fate of water borne microbial contaminants.
Key sponsors of this program are DOE-Biological and Environmental Research (BER), NIH, and industry.