Science and Engineering

University of Hawai’i at Manoa

Margaret McFall-Ngai, Anthony Amend, Nicole Hynson, Camilo Mora, Craig Nelson, Joanne Yew
Honolulu, HI
June 2018


The discovery of the vast impact of the microbial world represents the greatest change in our view of the form and function of the biosphere since Darwin developed his theory of evolution.  This technology-enabled revolution has thus far focused principally upon defining circumscribed microbiomes, such as those of the human body.  However, all microbiomes are nested within a broader environmental context and rely on the interactions among the components for health of the whole.  These abundant and diverse microbes represent a nearly untapped natural resource whose potential contributions to health, food production, and habitat restoration constitute the next great opportunity for biological sciences.  This project will address fundamental gaps in our basic understanding of environmental microbial communities with the goal of defining the compositions and functions that support healthy hosts and environments.  Taking advantage of the highly diverse, yet compact landscape of Hawaiʻi’s habitats, this program will explore the microbiome dynamics of an entire mountain-to-sea watershed.  The team of researchers from the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa will use a multidisciplinary strategy that integrates field observation, laboratory experimentation, and mathematical modeling, which will ultimately lead to future work in defining and engineering critical biotic and abiotic features that foster ecosystem microbiomes contributing to human and environmental health.  The efforts of the team will focus on establishing the Keck Environmental Microbiome Observatory (KEMO), the first comprehensive view of natural interdependent microbiomes to be developed by the biology community.  The long-term goal is to use tractable Hawaiian environments as models for large scale ecosystems worldwide.

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