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Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:West Virginia University Research Corporation
  • Ember Morrissey
  • (804) 517-4317
  • Edward R Brzostek
Award Date:07/28/2021
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 756,318
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 461,008
  • FY 2021=$461,008
Start Date:08/15/2021
End Date:07/31/2024
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.074
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:Tackling microbial biodiversity to create ecological strategies relevant to soil carbon cycling
Federal Award ID Number:2114570
DUNS ID:191510239
Program:Ecosystem Science
Program Officer:
  • Matthew Kane
  • (703) 292-7186

Awardee Location

Street:P.O. Box 6845
Awardee Cong. District:01

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:West Virginia University
Street:1206 Evansdale Drive
Cong. District:01

Abstract at Time of Award

Soil contains the second largest reservoir of carbon on earth. As climate change continues, altered temperature and precipitation can affect soil microorganisms and alter the cycling of carbon in soil, potentially mitigating or exacerbating climate change. The ability of scientists to predict this feedback remains poor, at least in part because the ecology and function of microorganisms in soil is not well understood. Further, soil carbon is a mixture of everything from simple sugars to complex plant and microbial debris. This research will determine which microorganisms consume key types of soil carbon. The experimental work will consider a range of soils from distinct regions, climates, and soil types to provide broadly applicable knowledge. The project will test the hypothesis that describing the populations of microorganisms that break down and consume different constituents of soil carbon will improve soil carbon models. Accurate predictions of ecosystem feedbacks to global change benefit society by allowing decision makers to prepare for the future. Additional broader impacts of this work include experiential learning opportunities for over one hundred high school students in a rural and economically depressed region of West Virginia. The project will contribute hands-on science learning activities to an early college program and STEM academy to improve scientific literacy with at-risk, economically disadvantaged, under-served youth in a county where fewer than 10% of adults have bachelor’s degrees. A single gram of soil contains thousands of microbial ‘species’, making soils among the most biodiverse habitats on earth. Perhaps due to this biodiversity, the struggle to connect composition with function in microbial communities persists. This research will connect microbial identity and phylogeny to phenotypic traits by quantifying taxon-specific rates of carbon assimilation and growth. The traits of soil microbes will be leveraged to build ecological strategies that connect them to soil carbon pools and facilitate ecosystem modeling. Specifically, the project will test the hypothesis that soil heterotrophs can be grouped as primary decomposers that assimilate complex plant debris, secondary decomposers that assimilate microbial necromass, passive consumers that assimilate labile dissolved substrates and predatory microbes that consume live microorganism. Using phylogenetic tools, the researchers will determine whether these ecological strategies are evolutionarily conserved, facilitating connections between taxonomy and function. The empirical data will be used to refine and parameterize a microbial-explicit decomposition model. This effort uses state-of-the-art empirical tools, phylogenetics, and ecological theory to distill microbial communities into a currency that models can directly use to enhance our predictive understanding of soil carbon cycling. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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