Prof Don Cowan:
The Centre for Microbial Ecology and Genomics (CMEG) is one of the largest research teams in the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Pretoria. CMEG researchers use a range of modern molecular and genomic methods, to address questions relating to the structure and function of microbial communities in the natural environment. CMEG researchers focus particularly on the role of microorganisms in ‘ecosystem services’ in a wide range of soil habitats, from hot and cold deserts to the soil habitats associated with root systems of economic crop species.
There is growing awareness that microorganisms play a very important role in soil health. Modern molecular techniques allow us, for the first time, to determine the full complement of microbial species in an environmental sample, and to probe the genetic and functional potential of these organisms.
Along with these environmental studies, CMEG researchers are also using the techniques of functional metagenomics and whole metagenome sequencing in order to identify novel pathways, genes and proteins in the ‘genetic resource’ offered by different environments.
The diversity and excitement of CMEG research is powered by dramatic changes in the genomic landscape, where the growth and power of Next Generation DNA Sequencing opens new innovative and exciting research ‘landscapes’.