Traditionally microbial community analysis and prediction has involved the culturing of isolated microbes and exploring their physiological response to stimuli. However, <5% of known microbial species can actually be cultured in the laboratory, and so DNA sequencing of their genomic information directly from environmental samples has become the mainstay of microbial ecology. The microbial dynamics program in Biosciences employs cutting-edge, high-throughput sequencing to generate billions of genetic fragments from soils and polluted ecosystems. These data are then explored in collaboration with the Mathematics and Computer Science (MCS) division using bioinformatics to define the functional capacity of each ecosystem and how this capacity can be used to clean up polluted environments. Additionally, through the continued exploration of microbial metabolism along environmental gradients thousands of novel proteins with no known function are being identified, which can be characterized through collaboration with the Proteome Analysis effort in the division.
Microbial community analysis and prediction aims to explore the part of the biosphere that controls 99% of the biochemistry on planet earth.