General Description
Molecular studies have demonstrated that around 1% of the microorganisms occurring in nature can be cultivated leaving 99+% of soil microbiota as an invaluable source of new microorganisms with potentially novel metabolic activities.  Considering the microbial diversity of Puerto Rico’s forests and its biotechnological potential we propose to study the functional genomics of the soil microbiota. Beyond traditional metagenomic approaches, we plan to link the role of the microbes with the geology that prevail in both ecosystems.  Our ultimate research goal is to discover new genes and enzymes with special interests in those related to specific mineralization process.  These research activities will be conducted by undergraduate students trained by scientists from two Universities inside and outside Puerto Rico.  Our main educational objectives are to educate a new generation of professionals in the field of metagenomics.  Students will learn how to sample forests, generate soil metagenomic libraries using state-of-the-art genetic engineering approaches and screen the libraries to detect genes that encode not only novel biocatalytic activities but also genes related to soil-mineralization reactions. We have also planed a series of workshops to introduce topics such as Metagenomics, Bioprospecting, Geomicrobiology, and natural resources conservation for K-12 students from rural locations in Puerto Rico in collaboration with USDA personnel.  Finally, we will implement the first introductory course in Metagenomics. An intensive assessment program will be established to measure the knowledge of the students.  The program will be evaluated by an external reviewer to assess students-learning from all levels during the educational program.