Published: Oct. 26, 2012

Approaches to Sampling the World's Microbial Diversity

Rob Knight


HHMIDepartment of Chemistry & Biochemistry, CU Boulder , Department of Computer Science, CU Boulder

Date and time: 

Friday, October 26, 2012 - 3:30pm


Recent advances in DNA sequencing technology have led to a revolution in our ability to  understand the microbial world, including the ~100 trillion microbial cells that inhabit each of our bodies (substantially outnumbering our ~10 trillion human cells) and pervade many aspects of human health. Key to this understanding are techniques for estimating the number of kinds of microbes in a given community and their relative abundance, calculating the dissimilarities among microbial communities using phylogenetic trees, identifying natural clusters in the data, and tracking changes over time in communities that might contain thousands of species. Here I provide an overview of current techniques for microbial community analysis, including downstream analyses such as Bayesian source tracking and identification of species associated with human disease. I also identify clear opportunities for improving some of these steps to provide better resolution in a wide range of problems in human and environmental health.