Blanchard Receives Community Sequencing Program Grant

The Joint Genome Institute of the U.S. Department of Energy recently granted Harvard Forest co-PIs Jeffrey Blanchard (UMass Biology Department), Kristen DeAngelis (UMass), Linda van Diepen (U. of New Hampshire), Serita Frey (U. of New Hampshire), and Jerry Melillo (MBL) a Community Sequencing Program grant. DOE will pay the costs of DNA/RNA library preparation, sequencing, and basic computational processing for 3 terabases of metagenomic (community DNA) and metatranscriptomic (community RNA) data gathered from Harvard Forest soils. Sequencing three terabases (3,000,000,000,000 DNA bases) is roughly equivalent to sequencing 1,000 human and plant genomes, 10,000 ant genomes or 500,000 bacterial genomes. The sequencing and data processing will take 2-3 years.

The project, overseen by researchers with expertise in ecosystem ecology, biogeochemistry, microbial ecology and genomics, aims to characterize the microbial communities from several long-term soil warming experiments at the Forest. The three warming projects, ongoing for 6, 9, and 20 years respectively, correspond to three distinct phases of projected carbon dioxide emissions. The DNA/RNA chronosequence resulting from this award will help researchers understand how climate change affects soil microbial community composition and activity over time.

Microorganisms are difficult to classify using visible morphology. But DNA analysis enables researchers to determine which microbes are present in the soil, while RNA sequencing provides a view of which microbes are actively contributing to ecological processes. A 2012 summer REU group project at the Forest helped to prototype the DNA sequencing analysis for this project.

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Harvard Forest.

Department of Energy

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