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Project sketches – spatial dynamic forest metagenome

Project sketches – ideas that have never made it into grant application (for many reasons, but mostly because I’m not an expert on the topic, so they wouldn’t be funded anyway).

The idea for this project was quite simple: to build spatial and dynamic map of forest metagenome. I wanted to collect many samples from several locations (on the ground, low hanging branches, top of the trees) in different conditions to assess how DNA is spreading in such environment. This supposed to be entirely fishing expedition – I still don’t have any fundamental question such project would answer. I hoped that adding spatial and temporal data to metagenomic analysis would reveal small fluctuations that shape overall state of the system. In other words, I hoped to find butterfly effect in metagenomic space.


The inspiration for this project wasn’t a paper, wasn’t a FriendFeed thread. It was cool device called Windbelt. The device pictured above (there are devices with different sizes) is a small wind-based power device that exploits motion of the string to generate energy. Windbelt plus a battery (as a energy storage) was supposed to power sensors (wind, air quality, temperature, humidity), a communication module (BT or Wifi) and a device that would collect DNA samples. All in semi independent package (at some point you would need to take the samples out and move to sequencing lab).


Airborne metagenome isn’t something particularly new. According to my searches, the first such experiment using modern NGS technology was published already  in 2008 by PLoS One: the study on urban indoor environment gave an insight into both microbial and functional diversity of air metagenome inside densely populated buildings. Whether dynamics of air environment is as important as I believed is to be checked. Although I’m not that sure the way I’ve imagined the methodology is really going to work.