If you want to catalog all the microbes on Earth, it will take a while. Bacteria alone may be 100 million times more numerous than stars in the universe. They may represent a trillion or more species.
Wildly ambitious and deeply important, the effort to catalog our planet's microbial environments in soil, water, and animals in a practical way has been under way since 2010. It's the crowd-sourced Earth Microbiome Project, co-founded by PNNL microbial ecologist Janet K. Jansson.
The project's first dataset - employing samples from every continent and calling on 500 or more international collaborators - just appeared in a Nov. 1 paper in Nature, "A communal catalogue reveals Earth's multiscale microbial diversity." Jansson is one of three co-senior authors. PNNL's Colin Brislawn gets a co-author credit.
The paper analyzes bacterial and archaeal metadata from a vast, ongoing effort to achieve what Jansson called "coordinated and cumulative sampling" of global microbial environments.
The new paper also introduces an analytical and protocol framework for a database ultimately designed to identify and compare microbes planet-wide.
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