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Environmental Science and Engineering Program Seminar - Dr. Jizhong Zhou

Start Date: May 3, 2017
End Date: May 3, 2017

​​TITLE: Microbial Ecology in Genomics Era: Challenges and Opportunities
DATE: Wednesday, May 3, 2017
TIME: 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Lecture Hall Level 0 · btw Buildings 4 & 5

Twenty-first century microbiology faces several grand challenges. First, microbial diversity is extremely high with most (>99%) as-yet uncultured. Characterizing such vast diversity and understanding the mechanisms shaping it presents numerous obstacles. Second, although microorganisms control, at least to some degree, various ecosystem processes, establishing the linkage between ecosystem function and microbial community structure is even more difficult. Third, human activities are causing multiple types of global environmental changes, including elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration, climate warming, increased nitrogen deposition, land use change, and as a potential consequence of each of these, biodiversity loss. It is critical to understand the responses, adaptations and feedback mechanisms of biological communities to climate warming. In addition, scaling the information from molecules to populations, to communities, and to ecosystems for understanding ecosystem behaviors and dynamics is a formidable task. With omics technologies, microbiologists have begun to tackle some of these challenges. In this talk, representative examples of omics and metagenomics studies relevant to biogeochemistry and global changes will be highlighted. I will first compare the differences and performances of various types of metagenomics technologies in analyzing microbial community structure, followed by description of using metagenomics technologies to address theoretical ecological questions related to metabolic theory of ecology, and species-area relationships. I will also describe the most recent advance in GeoChip development, and examples on how to use high throughput metagenomics technologies to address biological questions such as microbially mediated feedback mechanisms in response to climate warming in tundra and temperate grassland ecosystems. Furthermore, I will describe the importance of stochastic processes in controlling microbial community diversity, and a novel random matrix theory-based framework for discerning the network interactions in microbial communities. Finally, I will briefly discuss future perspectives on linking genomics to ecosystem functions by scaling information across different levels of biological organizations.
Dr. Jizhong Zhou is a George Lynn Cross Research Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Plant Biology and Director for the Institute for Environmental Genomics, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK, Visiting Senior Scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Adjunct Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. His expertise is in microbial ecology and genomics.