One of the major challenges facing society is the need to increase food production while simultaneously minimizing environmental degradation that threatens agricultural sustainability. A new $20-million-dollar multi-institutional project funded by the National Science Foundation aims to contribute solutions to this challenge through cutting-edge microbiome research. Microbiomes comprise all of the genetic material within all of the microorganisms in a specific niche (e.g., soil, etc.). The project will use fundamental interdisciplinary research on Microbiomes of Aquatic habitats, Plants, and Soils (MAPS) to enhance ecosystem productivity, mitigate environmental degradation in agriculturally-dominated landscapes, and conserve native grasslands. Researchers at Kansas State University led by distinguished professors Walter Dodds (Biology) and Chuck Rice (Agronomy) will receive $2.65 million of the total award. Within the project team, Dr. Matthew Kirk will represent the Department of Geology and serve as a group leader for team members who will examine soil microbiology and biogeochemistry. Field work for the project is starting this summer. Just after the semester, the soils team will collect soil cores from the main field sites. This summer they will also install soil monitoring arrays that will track hydrologic and geochemical parameters for years to come. This project is collecting a wide range of data and is expected to provide some exciting results so please stay tuned for updates!