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A rapidly developing research area focuses on understanding how genetic variation influences organisms, populations, communities and ecosystems and specifically the connections between genetics, gene regulation, species diversity, and ecological and biogeochemical processes. Changes in the genetic composition of foundation species and in gene-environment interactions are becoming more prevalent as a result of biological invasions, anthropogenic pollution, climate warming, and other manifestations of environmental change. These genetic changes have the potential to cascade through interacting systems to affect population viability, community organization, and the flow of nutrients and energy through ecosystems.
UMCES researchers focus on a range of scales from individual genes to genomics to metagenomics of complex communities. With newly developed molecular tools and approaches, genetic regulation of key ecological processes can now be elucidated at unprecedented levels of resolution, and in nearly every study system. This interdisciplinary focus brings together researchers with expertise in microbiology, molecular biology, population and community ecology, fisheries and wildlife science, and biogeochemistry. The emerging knowledge has significant potential for commercialization in uses ranging from waste remediation to pharmaceutical and biofuel development.