Methanogenic Degradation and Microbial Metabolism of Trace Gases

In the Department of Biogeochemistry, research is focused on the microbial metabolism and its effect on biogeochemical matter cycles in soil, particularly on chemically well-defined processes e.g., the production and consumption of methane. The central research questions are: (1) which microbial taxa are responsible for a particular biogeochemical process, and (2) which is the genetic/physiological background for this structure-function relationship? The methodology includes chemical-analytical techniques, microsensors, application of stabile and radioactive isotopes, isolation and physiological characterization of microorganisms and their metabolic function, and identification of microorganisms and their functional roles using cultivation-independent molecular-biological techniques, including metagenomic and metatranscriptomic approaches. Field experiments are combined with greenhouse studies and experiments under controlled laboratory conditions.

The Department of Biogeochemistry has been headed by Prof. Dr. Ralf Conrad (methanogenic degradation and the microbial metabolism of trace gases). Prof. Dr. Andreas Brune (microbial ecology of insect guts and microbial symbioses) and PD Dr. Werner Liesack (methanotrophic bacteria; environmental genomics and metagenomics) have been Research Group Leaders in the department. In March 2017 Ralf Conrad officially retired as Director of the Department of Biogeochemistry, and Andreas Brune and Werner Liesack became department-independent Research Group Leaders. They both have permanent positions and a have a guaranteed budget (including personal) for their research. Ralf Conrad acted as provisional director of the Department from March till May 2017. With the beginning of June 2017 Prof. Dr. Tobias Erb started as new Director, and the Department of Biogeochemistry was replaced by the new Department of Biochemistry and Synthetic Metabolism.

The scientific achievements and collaborations of the Department of Biogeochemistry in 2016 and 2017 are found in the individual reports of A. Brune, R. Conrad (see below) and W. Liesack. The plans of future research of the independent research groups of A. Brune and W. Liesack are also found in their respective reports.

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