Berkeley Lab


Screen-Shot-2014-11-07-at-9.53.05-AMMicrobes to Biomes is a Lab-wide initiative designed to explore and reveal the interactions of microbes with one another and with their environment – interactions that are vital to the Earth’s future.

We find ourselves at an unprecedented point in human history. An accelerating population of more than 7 billion is severely stressing the Earth’s ability to provide food and energy. As a result, we are faced with producing more with less in ways that reduce our negative impact on climate, environmental quality and health.

We believe that microbes, the most abundant and diverse form of life on Earth, could hold the answer.  Why? Microbes power our planet’s biogeochemical cycles, provide nutrients to our plants, purify our water and are integral components in keeping the human body free of disease.

Strategic investments by the Department of Energy Office of Science have produced transformative technologies, from genomics to multi-scale environmental and biological imaging and high performance computation, that have already increased our understanding of microbial potential. And with the basic functions of thousands of microorganisms and microbial communities now being decoded, this knowledge is growing rapidly.  Indeed, early results prove that microbes can be harnessed as chemical factories for a bio-based economy. Moreover, the path to future discoveries seems clear: since most microbes function as part of a larger integrated system, called a biome, learning more about the complex structure, behavior, evolution and influence of groups of microorganisms in the context of their biome will enable us to enlist microbes in the planet’s defense, as agents of increased productivity, environmental sustainability, and as allies in human health.

To jumpstart the discovery process, Berkeley Lab’s Microbes-to-Biomes initiative is targeting two key systems: the soil-plant biome and the gut microbiome. Learn more here: