A program for predictive and causal microbial ecology
The Ecosystems and Networks Integrated with Genes and Molecular Assemblies (ENIGMA) Scientific Focus Area that we help lead is dedicated to developing a generalizable approach to predictive causal microbial ecology. We seek to molecularly dissect the dispersal, drift, and selective forces that shape the assembly and activity of microbial communities in complex spatially and temporally variable niches. Our driving biological problem focused on the Y12 site at the Oak Ridge National Lab, a watershed that is highly contaminated by high nitrate and heavy metal contamination that resulted from nuclear programs over the last century. We seek to quantify the anthropogenic impact on the structure and function of the microbial communities that are present in this complex environment and to develop a predictive, increasingly mechanistic, understanding of the multiscale, interlinked environmental and biological processes that mediate denitrification and metal reduction activities of the microbial communities of sufficient resolution to allow effective optimization of these processes.
In this large collaborative project, for which we have a lead role in visioning, our central work is to help identify from sophisticated field measurements the critical active and interacting microbial subcommunities emblematic of the most active interactive subcommunities in different field conditions and to capture and characterize this diversity at gene-level resolution in the laboratory. We are most interested in understanding the novel phyla and pathways that carry out and mediate these critical activities and the role of predation and carbon constraints on overall community efficiency and selection.
For more information visit https://enigma.lbl.gov