Soil biodiversity and function – Section of Microbiology - University of Copenhagen

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Soil biodiversity and function

Soil is the most species rich habitat on Earth. An overwhelming diversity of life unfolds itself in just a single gram of soil. Here, more than 100.000 different bacterial species and an unknown number of microfungi interact by competing, cooperating, controlling and killing each other. Soil is teeming with life and nowhere else is life so complex. 

We believe that the complexity of life in soils has profound influence on the life-forming processes. Generation after generation of microorganisms has adapted to life in this complex setting. Some microorganisms evolved antibiotics like penicillin and tetracycline, presumably to inhibit competitors. Some microorganisms evolved enzymes to degrade natural substances, of which a large number are now multi-million dollars successes for the biotech industry. Other microorganisms evolved a unique set of genes just to survive among friends and enemies, thus creating a deadly cocktail of genes that has turned them into feared pathogens.

Biocomplexity as a research field is found where ecology and evolution meet, i.e. where daily life of individual organisms and long-term survival of the species interacts to form the basis of life. These life-forming interactions have taken place since the dawn of life. Today they are probably nowhere more intense than in soil. 

In Section of Microbiology we intend to understand and exploit the natural microbial communities using cutting-edge molecular techniques.

Write a project on Soil biodiversity and function

Microbiology of thawing permafrost
Due to global warming permafrost is thawing. This increases microbial decomposition of the enormous stocks of organic material and increases emission of greenhouse gases. You may investigate how bacteria and fungi react to extremely low temperatures or to global change experiments in the field.

A project may include:
Assays for enzymes involved in production or
consumption of greenhouse gases
PCR amplicons
Sequencing (only masters)
(Meta)transcriptomics (only masters)

Keywords:   Biodiversity, climate change, bacterial activity
Supervisor: Anders Priemé