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University of Wisconsin–Madison

The Weathering Microbiome

Perhaps the most broadly recognized microbiome initiative is the Human Microbiome Project, which began in 2008 with the ambitious goal of determining the role of the human microbiome in disease. More recently, the Earth Microbiome Project has focused on understanding microbial ecology at the global scale. This project relates directly to the Earth Microbiome Project and seeks to expand it to the globally important process of chemical weathering on the continents.

This project will define the microbial processes and species responsible for oxidation of ferrous iron (where the iron ion shares two of its electrons) and consequent weathering of iron-containing mineral aggregates. Understanding the link between the rates of oxidation and the presence of specific microbial community composition allow geoscientists to better understand susceptibility and rates of chemical weathering of iron-bearing minerals.

The investigators will use state-of-the-art high throughput sequencing approaches to hunt for relevant genes in and reconstruct microbial genomes from three natural environments, including one in the Central Sands area of Wisconsin.

Mineral weathering plays a fundamental role in soil formation, with attendant impacts on agriculture and other applied aspects of soil science. This project will provide the first comprehensive microbiome-style analysis of microbial communities associated with chemical weathering in terrestrial environments.


Eric Roden, Professor of Geoscience


Shaomei He, Assistant Scientist in Bacteriology and Geoscience


Eric Boyd, Assistant Professor of Microbiology and Immunology at Montana State University

Susan Brantley, Professor of Geosciences at Penn State University

Heather Buss, Senior Lecturer in Earth Sciences at Bristol University (UK)

Alfred Hartemink, Professor of Soil Science

Thea Whitman, Assistant Professor of Soil Science