Oklahoma Higher Education Campus E-Clips sponsored by the Communicators Council

November 2010

OU Researchers Awarded $3M Energy Grant

 

To better understand the effects of climate change on the microbial communities of two important ecosystems — the temperate grasslands in Oklahoma and the tundra in Alaska, a University of Oklahoma research group has been awarded a $3 million Department of Energy grant.

According to Jizhong Zhou, OU professor of botany and microbiology and director of the Institute for Environmental Genomics in the College of Arts and Sciences, the results of these studies could potentially contribute to the formation of U.S. policy on climate change.

OU researchers believe that understanding the responses, adaptations and feedback mechanisms of biological communities to climate change is critical to project future state of earth and climate systems. There is significant knowledge of above ground communities, but little is known about below ground microbial communities because of challenges with the analysis of soil structure and functions.

Studies in the two contrasting ecosystems will help researchers determine the diversity of microbial communities, temperature sensitivity of soil organic matter at both fields and microbial community structure in response to climate change. OU researchers will use the award-winning GeoChip technology in the analysis, but new network and modeling approaches for data integration, synthesis and prediction will be developed.

These studies will significantly advance the field of microbial ecology with knowledge of microbial community diversity, structure and distributions at the two ecosystems, and responses to climate change and relationships to ecosystem functioning. Also, the development of new experimental and mathematical tools will enhance capabilities for integrating and synthesizing metagenomics data.

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