Science and Engineering

University of Colorado, Boulder

Rob Knight
Boulder, CO
June 2013

This proposal will develop innovative research strategies to understand the global composition of microbial communities by analyzing gene and species dynamics in thousands of ecosystems worldwide. Microbes are the most abundant species on Earth and play vital roles in all ecosystems, but the vast majority remains uncharacterized. We will develop experimental and computational technologies linked to mathematically rich, empirically supported theories to significantly improve our understanding of the microbial world across systems and a range of scales. First, we will spatially and temporally characterize tens of thousands of microbial communities contributed by a network of outstanding collaborators. Second, we will develop new methods for higher-throughput sample handling, DNA extraction and library construction, including illuminating often-neglected taxa such as microbial eukaryotes and viruses, for deeper insight into community dynamics. Third, we will develop computational strategies to solve major hurdles associated with the effective analysis of such vast data sets, including predictive modeling, network analysis, and multi-scale data integration. We will thus enable a broad range of research in microbial ecology, provide novel platforms for testing ecological theories, and improve public understanding of the importance of microbial life.

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