Internationally renowned geneticist and medical researcher to visit Palmerston North

People will be able to hear from an internationally renowned geneticist and medical researcher at a public lecture in Palmerston North this week (eds: Friday 6 March).

Dr Edward “Eddy” Rubin is an extremely high profile scientist in the United States. He is director of the United States Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute (JGI) and also director of the Genomics Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

He is collaborating with Crown Research Institute AgResearch on work aimed at reducing livestock methane emissions and will give a public lecture, “Microbial Dark Matter”, on research activities at the JGI at Massey University on 6th March.

AgResearch is hosting him  at a Rumen Microbiome workshop where researchers will discuss the next steps of two large scale science projects. The work with AgResearch’s Rumen Microbiology team is on a Global Partnerships in Livestock Emissions Research project called “Deep Sequencing the Rumen Microbiome”.

The JGI also supports the AgResearch-led large scale genome sequencing project called the Hungate1000, which is sequencing the genomes of 1000 rumen microbes to underpin methane mitigation programmes in New Zealand, with funding from the New Zealand Government in support of the Livestock Research Group of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases.

Project leader, AgResearch Principal Scientist Dr Graeme Attwood says with the JGI support, both these projects have made great progress, particularly in their work to reduce methane emissions from sheep.

“This work contributes to a New Zealand breeding programme which aims to breed sheep that are low methane-emitters while at the same time maintain or improve their performance in reproduction and meat and wool production.

“Last year we published research that identified microbial differences in the rumens of sheep with high or low emissions. The microbial gene expression differences discovered in the study are helping to define the methane trait in sheep and will assist in the selection of future low methane flocks,” says Dr Attwood.

Understanding the microbial composition of a low methane animal and how its rumen works, also enables the scientists to target the methanogens directly using complementary approaches such as drenches, slow release boluses or specialised forages and supplements.

Dr Attwood says Dr Rubin is also interested in developing new areas of rumen research relevant to the JGI’s missions, particularly in alternative energy and global carbon cycling.

“The focus of the workshop is how we can align what we are doing in New Zealand more closely with the JGI to define new projects, or adjuncts to existing projects, that are compatible with the JGI’s longer term research goals, but also of benefit to New Zealand science. Eddy’s visit is a great opportunity for our group to discuss future projects with a world leading scientist, but also for the community in general to hear about the great science going on in the JGI.”

Public lecture: “Microbial Dark Matter”

12pm-1pm 6th March. Theatre 1, Social Science Lecture Block, Massey University.

Eddy Rubin (USA)

Edward M. “Eddy” Rubin is an internationally known geneticist and medical researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Berkeley, California and has served as the director of the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute since 2002. In addition to his research, Rubin has trained more than 50 scientists who have moved on from his laboratory to serve as faculty at leading institutions. He is on the editorial boards of several journals and scientific advisory boards, including the Board of Reviewing Editors for the journal Science, and has played key roles in directing genomic research at the DOE and the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Rubin oversaw the DOE JGI’s involvement in the Human Genome Project, during which time the DOE JGI worked on chromosomes 5, 13 and 16. After that project, he reoriented the DOE JGI toward applying genomics to studies related to bioenergy and the environment, sequencing and analysing the genetic codes of hundreds of plants, fungi and microbes.