CALS Stewards of the Future: Collaboration and Microbiomes


Microbiomes are the future.  Versions of this statement have been uttered time and again by some of the most influential minds in science.  The CALS Stewards of the future seminar at NCSU echoed this call in late October with an entire day focused on studying the microbiome, the implications these studies have on the future of science, and how collaboration is needed to succeed.  The talks ranged from basic to applied studies and emphasized how this technology could be applied to agricultural fields.

However, beyond the amazing speakers and engaging topics, what stood out most was the call for collaboration between scientists and disciplines to make these studies a reality.  NCSU’s own Dr. Rob Dunn spoke to them importance of collaboration throughout his entire talk.  By pairing scientists with field expertise with scientists with lab or computing expertise, meaningful and groundbreaking results have occurred.  These collaborations have even helped the Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Sciences Department.  Brickyard Red, the slightly sour beer made by Dr. Sheppard and his graduate students, originated from an interesting idea:  Could yeast isolated from a wasp brew a good beer?  Dr. Dunn and Dr. Sheppard set out to try and ended up making an excellent brew.

But collaboration goes beyond the need for good beer and can even help save our planet.  Dr. Jack Gilbert has been instrumental in one of the largest collaborations of scientists today, the Earth Microbiome Project.  The Earth Microbiome project’s goal is to characterize the microbiome of specific sections of the world.  Once a scientist has performed this analysis, they submit it to the Earth Microbiome Project which combines that data with data from all over the world to create a comprehensive picture of what the goal earth microbiome looks like.  Understanding the earth microbiome could lead to possible solutions to combat global warming, spent agricultural soil, and even human health issues.  We would not have even preliminary answers to these questions with such through background research without the collaboration of scientist across the globe on the Earth Microbiome Project.

CALS did an amazing job emphasizing the collaboration needed and necessary to move science forward in the future.  Stewards of the future is a name that fits to a tee.