Reconstructing the Universal Tree and Network of Life (2015–2020)
A grand challenge in biology today is to reconstruct the complete evolutionary history of life on Earth. A major
hurdle to this goal is the inability to culture most microbial species which comprise the bulk of evolutionary
diversity. This project will obtain 100,000 genome sequences using ground-breaking techniques, and
systematically organise this uncultured ¿microbial dark matter¿ into natural phylogenetic relationships comprising
both vertical inheritance and lateral transfers. This framework will be used to replace the current highly flawed and
incomplete classification of microorganisms. The systematic exploration and organisation of microbial dark matter
is timely and will provide fundamental insights into ecology and evolution.