Numerous Biosciences Area personnel are among the 2021 Berkeley Lab Director’s Awards honorees. This annual program recognizes outstanding contributions by employees to all facets of Lab activities. A complete list of winners can be found here. The 10th annual Director’s Awards ceremony will take place on November 18 at noon.
A group of scientists who study the interactions between plants and microbes have published a study detailing the dynamic relationships between soil-dwelling, single-celled organisms called protists and developing plants. Protist communities near plant roots were found to respond to the different developmental stages of switchgrass, a crop with excellent potential as a bioenergy feedstock, much like bacterial communities do.
A study led by Eoin Brodie and Javier Ceja-Navarro in Berkeley Lab’s Earth and Environmental Sciences Area (EESA) provides new insights into how the wood-eating passalid beetle’s complex digestive tract and resident microbes are able to efficiently turn tough plant polymers like lignin and cellulose into food and fuel. By bringing together a team of experts—including collaborators at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory—and using advanced molecular biology tools combined with spectrometry and tiny sensors, they discovered that the beetle’s gut is made up of specialized compartments, each with a distinct microbiome, that work together in a manner similar to a factory production line. “The key innovation that nature has provided here is a way to combine biochemical processes that are otherwise incompatible,” said Brodie, deputy director of EESA’s Climate and Ecosystem Sciences Division, who has a secondary affiliation in Biosciences’ Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology (EGSB) Division. The study was published in Nature Microbiology.
Read more in the Berkeley Lab News Center.
The Labwide initiative, Microbes-to-Biomes (M2B), has kicked off with five projects funded through the Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) program, and a new website to chronicle news and advancements in M2B’s research mission. The M2B initiative is designed to explore and reveal the interactions of microbes with one another and with their environment – interactions that are vital to the Earth’s future.