Microbes in soil decompose litter, recycle nutrients, and produce and regulate greenhouse gases that are important at the ecosystem level; but how will climate change impact all these functions? We are using manipulative lab based studies and long term climate change experiments in natural and agricultural systems to understand the responses of microbial communities to global change and their feedbacks. In addition we are also investigating the impact of climate change and extreme weathers on interaction between above and belowground communities and its consequences for ecosystem functioning (Collaborators: Western Sydney University, Australia; University of Minnesota, USA)
Microbiome engineering is an emerging field that aims to move beyond characterization of microbiomes, to manipulate, recombine, and control the collective properties, behaviors, and functions of interdependent microbial communities. In an ongoing project we are developing the next generation of tools and capabilities to probe the molecular mechanisms underlying community interactions. We will use this information to manage, analyze, interpret and model the enormous amounts of data generated by microbiome studies and begin assembling synthetic communities.
Earth systems models play an integral role in predicting climate and climate forcing processes in the environment. However, traditional models don't incorporate microbiome information. We are employing a systems biology approach, which couples modeling and simulation with experiment and theory to provide evidence for microbial regulation of biogeochemical cycles and feedback in response to climate change. The next challenge will be to develop physiological parameterizations that directly interface between molecular, genomic, and physiological datasets scaling the ecological models from the gene to ecosystem level.