Researchers identify indoor microbes based on sequence data, i.e., analysis of DNA that is isolated from samples taken indoors. Though DNA sequencing has led to the discovery of a vast array of new indoor microbes, important gaps in our knowledge remain. We have an increasingly detailed picture of which microbes thrive indoors, but we don’t know what those microbes are doing. Enter mass spectronomy, an analytical chemistry technique that identifies the types and amounts of chemicals in a sample based on molecular weight. By using mass spectronomy to analyze indoor samples for chemicals produced by microbial metabolism, researchers can peer into the actual workings of indoor microbial communities.
This grant funds a project by microbiologist Rob Knight of the University of Colorado and Pieter Dorrestein, professor of pharmacology at the University of California, San Diego, to expand the capabilities of two popular software platforms, QIIME and GNPS, to enable each to integrate sequence data, metabolic data, and building science measurements and permit researchers to easily perform DNA analysis and chemical data analysis on the same samples. The expanded systems will allow scholars to examine related microbial and metabolic processes directly in samples from the built environment, and in some cases to reanalyze samples already collected.