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Content archived on 2024-05-29

Microbial ecology: the relationships between community diversity, structure and function


Microbial activity underpins the functioning of all global biogeochemical cycles. Microbial ecology, the interaction of microorganisms with their environment, is an essential component in understanding the functioning of the global ecosystem. Fundamental to microbial ecology are the principals that determine the structure and function of microbial communities. Only when these principals are understood will the full impact of microbial activity on the global ecosystem be apparent. Microbes play a major role in many scientifically, economically and socially important areas and represent a vital area of research within the EU. However, microbial ecology is a difficult science that at present lacks a strong theoretical basis.

This proposal will address fundament al issues related to microbial biodiversity and place these within an ecological context. This will be achieved by two general approaches. The first will link microbial community structure and function by investigating two indigenous microbial genera as mo del generalist and specialist microbes using metagenomics, gene expression analysis, distribution ecology and traditional isolation and characterisation analysis. The second will investigate microbial phenotypic and genotypic stability. This approach will utilise model systems in chemostats and compare these with natural communities.

This work will help define the true ecological context of microbial biodiversity and so redefine microbial ecology. The proposed research is novel and ambitious in its aims and will place Europe at the forefront of hypothesis-driven research in microbial ecology. It will produce four highly skilled, multi-disciplinary researchers with excellent international reputations and career prospects. Building a strong European research base in microbial ecology is vital to structuring the ERA and so meeting the challenges of becoming? the world's most competitive and dynamic economy? within the context of sustainable development.


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