BioWeatherMap Aims to Uncover Spatio-Temporal Distribution of Microbial Life

by Matt Ball on December 1, 2011

The BioWeatherMap initiative looks to uncover insight into the geographic and temporal distribution of microbial life through an distributed and volunteer environmental sensing effort. The intent is to gather environmental samples from around the world that will be DNA sequence for ongoing discovery and surveillance.

This effort teamed with Autodesk to explore the visualization aspects of the data collections at the TED Global event this past July, and work is ongoing to help uncover new insights.

The goals is to address fundamental questions such as “How diverse is the microbial life around us?” and “How do microbial communities in different habitats change over time?” and “How can advanced sequencing technologies best be utilized to address issues in biodiversity, public health, and biosurveillance?”

Uncovering the diversity of microbial organisms will uncover unknown details of the life around us, with as much as 70% of organisms said to be microscopic. Understanding the makeup and spread of these organisms will aid in public health to help track, report and monitor emerging disease threats. This mapping also has implications for natural resources, with new insights into the impact of microbial diversity on soil and crop yields.

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