Mobilizing Alaskan Genomics

The Drown Lab has been awarded a two year grant to engage undergraduate researchers using new genomic technology to explore the Alaska soil microbiome. We’ll be traveling across the state and working with undergraduates using the latest Nanopore sequencing devices (MinIONs).

Project Summary:

The overall goal of the proposed research is to engage undergraduate researchers in measuring and testing the effects of the Alaska soil microbiome on ecosystem health. In this proposal, I address how microbial communities alter plant productivity, a key aspect of ecosystem health, and how these effects interact with effects of global change, such as permafrost thaw. My approach is novel because I will utilize recently developed transformative technology that enables remote collection of DNA sequence data. The data we collect will help to design future experiments on the evolution of soil pathogens as impacted by changing environmental conditions. These plant-microbe interactions may influence how the plant community responds to changing climatic conditions and ultimately effect Alaskans who rely on the forest for food.

The research addressed will provide an opportunity to understand the below-ground microscopic world as well as characterize differences in the soil communities across Alaska. Students will directly observe how this microscopic world can alter the plant ecosystem using controlled greenhouse studies. This research on plant-soil-microbe interactions will serve to address a gap in our understanding of current investigations of the Alaskan ecosystem health. The proposed research is innovative in the way that we will use a mobile sequencing platform to transform the way undergrads conduct hands on research both in the field and in the lab. This research will help students make the connection between the world they see and the microscopic world they cannot directly observe.

The funding is provided by NIH via BLaST (Biomedical Learning and Student Training) is a part of our local NIH Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (BUILD) Initiative. This work is supported by the National Institute Of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers UL1GM118991, TL4GM118992, or RL5GM118990.