Seminar, 18. January 2018, Ulisses Nunes da Rocha

18. January 2018, 16.15 p.m. 

Ernst-Abbe-Platz 2, seminar room 3423

Micro ‘Big Data’: Mining Microbial Functional Hotspots in Terrestrial Environments

Dr. Ulisses Nunes da Rocha
(Helmholtz Young Investigator, Microbial Systems Bioinformatics, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig)

In the dawn of the Anthropocene, Earth appears to be undergoing rapid changes accelerated by anthropogenic activity. For example, the increase in the release of chemicals into the environment is endangering the foundations of life and biodiversity. Microbial diversity profoundly impacts terrestrial ecosystems as it provides the key catalysts for the biogeochemical reactions needed to sustain the ecosystem services that control the fate of industrial chemicals in terrestrial environments. In nature, microbes do not function in isolation but rather act as members of complex communities. A better understanding of the response of microbial communities to introduced chemicals will help to design scientifically based policies aimed at preventing and halting the loss of ecosystem services. My Microbial Systems Biology team at UFZ (Leipzig) strives to advance risk assessments of chemicals in terrestrial environments by creating a predictive understanding of what happens to these chemicals using microbial community ‘Big Data’. The innovative aspects of our approach are: (a) the reconstruction a large database of genomes from biogeographically distinct terrestrial environments; (b) the identification and the modelling of potential microbial hotspots capable of transforming industrially produced chemicals; and (c) the flexibility, which allows it to be adaptable to any chemical compound for which the links are known between gene, enzymes, and metabolites involved in its transformation.