Don Cowan & researchers head for the Namib Desert

Apr 04, 2013 No Comments by

In late April 2013, Society President, Professor Don Cowan will lead the 20-strong Centre for Microbial Ecology and Genomics (CMEG) team, along with researchers from the University of the Western Cape (UWC), the University of Cape Town (UCT), Heriot-Watt University, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology and the Spanish National Research Council (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas – CSIC), on a week-long field research programme to the Gobabeb Research and Training Centre in the Namib Desert.

Building on the work done during two previous visits, the team will undertake the first comprehensive survey of Namib Desert microbiology, using the latest molecular phylogenetic measurements.

Samples recovered during the week will be returned to the CMEG laboratory at the University of Pretoria for chemical, physical and molecular analyses. These studies will rely heavily on genomic and metagenomic methods and will extensively employ next generation DNA sequencing.

Individual research projects will focus on the gravel desert soils, the dune and inter-dune environments, the microbiology of different soil types and soil ages, and specialised niche environments such as spear-grass mounds, saline springs, ‘fairy circles’ and hypoliths. Macro and microclimatic effects, soil chemistry, carbon turnover and other factors are all expected to influence microbial community structures. These studies will include surveys of bacterial, fungal and bacteriophage diversity.

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