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Janet Jansson and “Earth’s Dark Matter”

Source:  Janet Jansson and Dan Hawkes

Soil_janetOver the last few years, ESD’s Janet Jansson has devoted much of her scientific attention to the use of “omics”—producing a wealth of data that provides information on the composition of DNA (genomics), RNA (transcriptomics), proteins (proteomics), and metabolites (metabolomics) for multiple organisms in a given habitat, such as soil or the human gut.  In the most recent (Feb. 2013) volume of Nature, Jansson has written an editorial (entitled “Exploring Earth’s Dark Matter”) that addresses the following question: Can omics “provide insight into microbial ecology that cannot be achieved using traditional methods?” In other words, can use of these modern “big data” technologies be as revealing as (or more revealing than) more targeted conventional experiments to study microbe–environment associations? This question is particularly relevant to soil, an especially challenging habitat because of its high microbial diversity.

Jansson also observes that “the discovery of a microbial species with potentially novel functions would be just as interesting as the discovery of a star.”

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