Identifying gene functions across biological scales
Complex systems at every scale of life, from cells to organisms to the global ecosystem, impact the movement of energy and materials. Understanding the intricate ways that interactions between genes and traits influence outcomes on the ecosystem scale can inform a range of solutions for issues such as removing carbon from the atmosphere through biological means, managing nutrient cycles, reducing mercury pollution, recovering from extreme weather events, and designing secure biosystems.
For instance, identifying and engineering genes in plants that allocate carbon to roots can increase biological carbon capture while creating hardier feedstocks for bioproduct and biofuels production. Also, tuning plants and their microbiomes for more efficient uptake of nitrogen will reduce the need to use nitrogen fertilizers that cause toxic algal blooms along national coastlines and waterways.