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Microbial Ecology

Project Overview

Predicting the ecological consequences of microbes in natural and disturbed settings is a grand challenge for microbial ecology. To date, this challenge has been addressed only in case studies or in simple systems with low taxonomic diversity. Characterizing the relationship among microbial genes, traits, and functions will improve predictive understanding of biogeochemical cycling and ecosystem services, and involves significant opportunities for economic development. Determining microbial consequences requires ambitious sampling of -omic and environmental data, followed by analyses of this information through cutting-edge data science, as well as computational education, outreach, and access by groups historically underrepresented in the sciences.

The research builds on vertically integrated collection of ecological data. The work will include sampling and identification of diverse microbial taxa at high spatial and temporal density, and study sites that span environmental gradients for which Wyoming is known. Subsequent determination of microbial function will be achieved through -omic sampling, collection of broad environmental metadata to provide selective context, performance measurements of macroeukaryotic hosts, and quantification of relevant biogeochemical processes. These comprehensive data sets will be used to develop empirical, phenomenological, and mechanistic models of microbial distributions and functions; null models will be contrasted with models of trait-based filters on microbial life. The accuracy of model predictions will be assessed via experimental manipulations and in field sites beyond those used in model development.

Focus Areas

Test ecological theory by quantifying microbial life along natural and anthropogenic gradients

Measure microbial functional traits in parameterize models of ecological consequences

Build and test mechanistic understanding of microbial ecology with models and experiments

Transform data science capacity in Wyoming through education and outreach with specific applications to microbial ecology

Societal Implications

The research will apply modern methods in computation, statistics, and modeling, providing integrated training in data science from grade school to grad school to business leaders. The combination of proposed infrastructure development, spatial and temporal mapping of microbial taxa and functions onto Wyoming ecosystems, and computational science training is a concrete basis to enhance jurisdictional research capacity and competitiveness as well as the state’s workforce and economy. Science will be communicated through various outlets, including art exhibits and partnerships with media. This project is truly designed and inspired to reach across the state and two sovereign nations of the Wind River Indian Reservation and engage stakeholders in the world of microbial ecology.

Contact Us

Wyoming EPSCoR

422 Wyoming Hall Dept 3622

1000 E. University Ave.

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-3545

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1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
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