The Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) is managed by the Department of Energy’s Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) to produce high-throughput DNA sequencing, synthesis and analysis in support of BER’s bioenergy and environmental missions. These missions mirror DOE and national priorities to develop renewable and sustainable sources of biofuels from plant biomass, to understand the biological processes controlling greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere (especially carbon dioxide and methane, key factors in global climate change), and to gain insights into biogeochemical processes controlling the cycling of key nutrients in environments for sustainable bioenergy production or the mobility of heavy metals and radionuclides at contaminated sites for which DOE has stewardship responsibilities. Projects with direct relevance in these areas will have the best chance for selection. Projects focused on organisms for comparative purposes, on model systems for microbe-microbe or plant-microbe interactions, or on development of improved sequencing-based technologies are also welcomed but the applicant should clearly outline how the proposed sequencing will advance BER-mission relevant science. Projects primarily focused on human health or public health concerns will not be considered.
Additional information about DOE’s Biological and Environmental Research program mission can be found at http://science.energy.gov/ber/.
The United States is one of the world’s largest consumers of petroleum and most of this energy is used for transportation and industry. This drives the DOE’s focus on developing clean, renewable and sustainable alternative fuel sources from lignocellulosic biomass. Such fuels would ideally offer energy content on par with gasoline while being compatible with our existing fuel distribution infrastructure. Sequencing projects at the DOE JGI that contribute to meeting this goal focus on one of three categories: terrestrial plants that can be used as feedstocks for biofuel production and their associated microbiomes; fungi, microbes and microbial communities that can break down the lignin and cellulose in plant walls; and organisms that can convert lignocellulosic-derived sugars or lignols into biofuels or other bioproducts currently produced from petroleum (excluding pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and food products).
The global carbon cycle directly influences levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and methane which in turn affect the Earth’s climate. As microbes constitute the largest component of the Earth’s biodiversity and biomass, understanding how they metabolize carbon and how environmental changes affect these processes is crucial. The DOE JGI is sequencing large numbers of microbes and microbial communities that contribute to carbon cycling, particularly those found in less well-understood terrestrial, subsurface and terrestrial-aquatic interface ecosystems; other projects aim to understand the contribution of biogenic emissions to atmospheric particle formation and evolution This information is expected to contribute to better predictive models and strategies for mitigating the effects of increasing carbon dioxide and methane emissions on the global climate.
Beyond the carbon cycle, many other DOE relevant environmental processes are controlled by complex, interconnected biogeochemical reactions. The JGI seeks projects that can couple a genome-enabled understanding of biological processes in the context of the physical, chemical and geochemical processes controlling the cycling and fate of key elements in environments impacting BER’s energy and environmental missions. Microbes and microbial communities of interest to the DOE JGI as targets for sequencing include: those involved in terrestrial nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur and other macronutrient cycles that impact sustainable bioenergy crop growth or global carbon cycling, as well as those involved in the iron, sulfur and manganese cycles that mediate the transformation of DOE-relevant contaminants such as heavy metals or radionuclides in soils, freshwater aquatic sediments and the subsurface.