• Hunting for microbes since 2003

  • We seek to understand

    the role of microorganisms in Earth's nutrient cycles

    and as symbionts of other organisms

  • Cycling of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur

    affect the health of our planet

  • The human microbiome -

    Our own social network of microbial friends

  • Ancient invaders -

    Bacterial symbionts of amoebae

    and the evolution of the intracellular lifestyle

  • Marine symbioses:

    Listening in on conversations

    between animals and the microbes they can't live without

  • Single cell techniques offer new insights

    into the ecology of microbes

  • Apply for the DOME International PhD/PostDoc program

Dome News

Latest publications

Microbial temperature sensitivity and biomass change explain soil carbon loss with warming

Soil microorganisms control carbon losses from soils to the atmosphere1,2,3, yet their responses to climate warming are often short-lived and unpredictable4,5,6,7. Two mechanisms, microbial acclimation and substrate depletion, have been proposed to explain temporary warming effects on soil microbial activity8,9,10. However, empirical support for either mechanism is unconvincing. Here we used geothermal temperature gradients (>50 years of field warming)11 and a short-term experiment to show that microbial activity (gross rates of growth, turnover, respiration and carbon uptake) is intrinsically temperature sensitive and does not acclimate to warming (+6 °C) over weeks or decades. Permanently accelerated microbial activity caused carbon loss from soil. However, soil carbon loss was temporary because substrate depletion reduced microbial biomass and constrained the influence of microbes over the ecosystem. A microbial biogeochemical model12,13,14 showed that these observations are reproducible through a modest, but permanent, acceleration in microbial physiology. These findings reveal a mechanism by which intrinsic microbial temperature sensitivity and substrate depletion together dictate warming effects on soil carbon loss via their control over microbial biomass. We thus provide a framework for interpreting the links between temperature, microbial activity and soil carbon loss on timescales relevant to Earth’s climate system.

Walker TWN, Kaiser C, Strasser F, Herbold CW, Leblans NIW, Woebken D, Janssens IA, Sigurdsson BD, Richter A
2018 - Nature Climate Change, 9: in press

Stable-Isotope Probing of Human and Animal Microbiome Function

Humans and animals host diverse communities of microorganisms important to their physiology and health. Despite extensive sequencing-based characterization of host-associated microbiomes, there remains a dramatic lack of understanding of microbial functions. Stable-isotope probing (SIP) is a powerful strategy to elucidate the ecophysiology of microorganisms in complex host-associated microbiotas. Here, we suggest that SIP methodologies should be more frequently exploited as part of a holistic functional microbiomics approach. We provide examples of how SIP has been used to study host-associated microbes in vivo and ex vivo. We highlight recent developments in SIP technologies and discuss future directions that will facilitate deeper insights into the function of human and animal microbiomes.

2018 - Trends Microbiol, In press

Lecture series

Exploring new branches on the tree of life

Brett Baker
University of Texas, Austin, USA
12:00 h
Lecture Hall 2, UZA 1, Althanstr. 14, 1090 Wien

A single-cell perspective on the spatial self-organization of microbial systems

Martin Ackermann
ETH Zürich
14:00 h
Hörsaal 2, UZA 1, Althanstr. 14, 1090 Wien

Eco-Evolutionary Dynamics of Microbial Populations in the Wild

Martin Polz
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
12:00 h
Hörsaal 2, UZA 1, Althanstr. 14, 1090 Wien