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Institute for Environmental Genomics

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Institute for Environmental Genomics


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The mission of IEG is to advance scientific research and education in environmental genomics and stimulate bio-economic development in the State of Oklahoma in order to address scientific challenges related to (i) defining gene function, (ii) delineating gene regulatory networks (iii) developing a systems-level understanding of biological systems beyond individual cells, and (iv) creating computational simulations of biological systems. 

Current Research

Three research themes are pursued at IEG:

(i) functional and comparative genomics for understanding gene function, regulation, network and evolution,

(ii) microbial ecology and community genomics for analysis of diversity, composition, structure, function and dynamics of microbial communities related to global change, bioremediation, land use, bioenergy, and agricultural practices using metagenomics approaches, such as functional gene arrays (e.g., GeoChip), high-throughput sequencing, and single cell genomics, and

(iii) development of metagenomic and bioinformatic tools for big data analysis to understand and model ecosystem functioning and stability.

Read more

IEG Highlights

IEG Director

Dr. Jizhong Zhou

Dr. Jizhong Zhou is a George Lynn Cross Research Professor and a Presidential Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Plant Biology and Director for the Institute for Environmental Genomics, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK; Visiting Senior Scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; and Adjunct Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China. His expertise is in molecular biology, microbial genomics, microbial ecology, theoretical ecology and genomic technologies. His laboratory has pioneered the development and use of genomic technologies for environmental studies for which GeoChip won an R&D 100 Award in 2009. He received a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers in 2001. He received an Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award in 2014. He is a former Editor for Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a current Editor for mBio and a Senior Editor for The ISME Journal. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Dr. Zhou Appointed Senior Editor of The ISME Journal

Dr. Zhou was appointed Senior Editor for The ISME Journal.  His appointment will begin Feb. 1, 2017 and will continue for three years.  Dr. Zhou was previously a member of the Editorial Board. 

"The ISME Journal seeks to promote diverse and integrated areas of microbial ecology spanning the breadth of microbial life, including bacteria, archaea, microbial eukaryotes, and viruses."

Dr. Zhou's areas of expertise for the journal are: Metagenomics, Microbiomes, Theoretical ecology, Microbial biogeography, Experimental evolution, Genomic technologies, Soil microbial ecology, Climate change microbial ecology, Subsurface microbial ecology, Microbial ecology in engineered systems, Network microbiology, and Systems microbiology.

Highly Cited Researchers 2018: Dr. Zhou & Dr. Van Nostrand

This list recognizes world-class researchers selected for their exceptional research performance, demonstrated by production of multiple highly cited papers that rank in the top 1% by citations for field and year in Web of Science

For more information click the link below:

Highly Cited Researchers 2018


Dr. Zhou recipient of an Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award

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Energy Secretary Moniz announced the names of the nine recipients of the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award, which recognizes exceptional US scientists and engineers preforming research supporting the Energy Department mission. IEG Director, Jizhong Zhou, was selected as one of nine recipients.

“These mid-career researchers have made significant advances in fundamental science and technology innovation,” Secretary Moniz said. “They will help sustain America’s research and development leadership. I congratulate the winners for their outstanding achievements, thank them for their work on behalf of the Department and the Nation, and look forward to their continued accomplishments.”

Jizhong (Joe) Zhou (University of Oklahoma) - Biological and Environmental Sciences Honored for his outstanding accomplishments in environmental genomics and microbial ecology, including the development of innovative metagenomics technologies for environmental sciences, for groundbreaking discoveries to understand the feedbacks, mechanisms, and fundamental principles of microbial systems in response to environmental change, and for transformative leadership to elucidate microbial ecological networks and to link microbial biodiversity with ecosystem functions.

Congressional Record of Award (pdf)

News and Announcements

Paper published in Nature Climate Change

Aug. 18, 2018

Publication: Climate warming leads to divergent succession of grassland microbial communities

Accurate climate projections require an understanding of the effects of warming on ecological communities and the underlying mechanisms that drive them. However, little is known about the effects of climate warming on the succession of microbial communities. Here we examined the temporal succession of soil microbes in a long-term climate change experiment at a tall-grass prairie ecosystem. Experimental warming was found to significantly alter the community structure of bacteria and fungi. By determining the time-decay relationships and the paired differences of microbial communities under warming and ambient conditions, experimental warming was shown to lead to increasingly divergent succession of the soil microbial communities, with possibly higher impacts on fungi than bacteria. Variation partition- and null model-based analyses indicate that stochastic processes played larger roles than deterministic ones in explaining microbial community taxonomic and phylogenetic compositions. However, in warmed soils, the relative importance of stochastic processes decreased over time, indicating a potential deterministic environmental filtering elicited by warming. Although successional trajectories of microbial communities are difficult to predict under future climate change scenarios, their composition and structure are projected to be less variable due to warming-driven selection.

OU Press Release: Climate Warming Affects Tallgrass Prairie Ecosystem

IEG research on permafrost thawing highlighted by DOE's Office of Science

June 13, 2017

The U.S. DOE's Office of Science highlighted IEG collaborative work on the impacts of permafrost thawing on microorganisms and resultant changes in carbon degradation rates and release of CO2.

Permafrost's deep layers ... [lock] away [degraded] organic matter...for thousands of years. ... [W]arming could cause permafrost to thaw much faster and more extensively than ever before. ... Organic matter in thawed permafrost can decompose rapidly. As bacteria, fungi, and other tiny organisms break down the matter, they release the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane. ... Greenhouse gases from the thawed permafrost would lead to more climate change, which then could lead to more permafrost thawing – a self-reinforcing cycle.

"This is the most important tipping point," said Jizhong Zhou, a researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and professor at the University of Oklahoma.

- Defrosting the World’s Freezer: Thawing Permafrost

New Publications

  1. Shi S, DJ Herman, Z He, J Pett-Ridge, L Wu, J Zhou, and MK Firestone. Plant roots alter microbial functional genes supporting root litter decompositionSoil Biol Biochem. 127:90-99.
  2. Deng Y, D Ning, Y Qin, K Xue, L Wu, Z He, H Yin, Y Liang, V Buzzard, ST Michaletz, and J Zhou. Spatial scaling of forest soil microbial communities across a temperature gradientEnviron Microbiol. Supplemental Information; Supplmental Data: R code R file
  3. Liang J, J Xia , Z Shi, L Jiang, S Ma, X Lu, M Mauritz, SM Natali, E Pegoraro, CR Penton, C Plaza, VG Salmon, G Celis, JR Cole, KT Konstantinidis, JM Tiedje, J Zhou, EAG Schuur, and Y Luo. 2018. Biotic responses buffer warming‐induced soil organic carbon loss in Arctic tundraGlob Change Biol.
  4. Shi Z, Y Lin, KR Wilcox, L Souza, L Jiang, J Jiang, CG Jung, X Xu, M Yuan, X Guo, L Wu, J Zhou, and Y Luo. Successional change in species composition alters climate sensitivity of grassland productivityGlob Change Biol. In press.
  5. Wang M, J Ding , B Sun, J Zhang, KN Wyckoff, H Yue, M Zhao, Y Liang, X Wang, C Wen, J Zhou, and Y Yang. Microbial responses to inorganic nutrient amendment overridden by warming: Consequences on soil carbon stabilityEnviron Microbiol.
  6. Whitman T, R Neurath, A Perera, I Chu‐Jacoby, D Ning, J Zhou, P Nico, J Pett‐Ridge, and M Firestone. Microbial community assembly differs across minerals in a rhizosphere microcosmEnviron Microbiol.
  7. Guo X, J Feng, Z Shi, X Zhou, M Yuan, X Tao, L Hale, T Yuan, J Wang, Y Qin, A Zhou, Y Fu, L Wu, Z He, J Van Nostrand, D Ning, X Liu, Y Luo, J Tiedje, Y Yang, and J Zhou. 2018. Climate warming leads to divergent succession of grassland microbial communitiesNat Clim Change. 8:813-818.