Newswise — WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a plan to provide up to $36 million for basic research into microbial processes and community interactions in natural systems. The research will elucidate fundamental principles to advance our understanding of regulatory, metabolic, and signaling networks among microbes, microbe-plant interactions, the capture and storage of carbon in soils, and the conversion of nutrients and other elements in a changing world.

“There is an incredible diversity of microbes in the environment and their activities shape the world around us. Microbes cycle elements such as carbon and nitrogen, help plants grow, and can determine the behavior of whole ecosystems,” said Sharlene Weatherwax, DOE Associate Director of Science for Biological and Environmental Research. “Understanding microbial systems enables creating realistic models of their interactions in natural environments and shapes our understanding of the microbiome’s impact in the context of rapid environmental change.

Research will support systems biology studies to understand the rate and magnitude of microbial activities in the environment. This research will shed light on feedbacks with and responses to global change and will leverage genome-enabled techniques to understand environmental processes. Supported studies will provide insight into the mechanisms of microbial interactions with other microbes and with plants, signaling, resource sharing, and communication at the molecular, cellular, and community scales. Supported projects will aim to create frameworks for predicting environmental microbiome behavior and develop novel environmental omics-based techniques for the study of microbial communities.

Applications will be open to universities, industry, and nonprofit research institutions as the lead institution, with collaborators at the DOE national laboratories and other Federal agencies. Total planned funding is $36 million over three years, with outyear funding contingent on congressional appropriations.

The Funding Opportunity Announcement, sponsored by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within the Department’s Office of Science, can be found here.