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Cataloging the Diversity of Earth's Microbes

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The Joint Genome Institute at the Energy Department has started what it calls a “genomic encyclopedia,” a collection of genomes from diverse microbes. Using an evolutionary approach that differs in strategy from how scientists originally chose organisms for sequencing, researchers hope to discover many new kinds of genes.

According the New York Times, "the genomic encyclopedia includes not only the raw data on genes, but also predictions about what those genes are actually for. To see if those predictions are right will require a lot more time and labor. The joint genome institute has set up an “Adopt a Genome Program” to enlist the help of college students. Undergraduate microbiology students can pick a species from the encyclopedia and analyze its biology."

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