Azolla is a 'superorganism', consisting of not just the fern but a diverse array of symbiotic bacteria. It is this unique microbiota that converts nitrogen into organic forms and makes Azolla a perfect bio-fertilizer. This fund will be used to sequence the genomes of Azolla and its symbiotic bacteria, so that we can understand the two-way, inter-kingdom language that codes for the molecular machinery underlying this symbiotic partnership, and possibly tailor it to suit our needs.
We will generate a draft Azolla genome using the high-throughput Illumina sequencing technology. Two paired-end, 150bp HiSeq runs will generate 160 giga-bases, giving over a 100X genome coverage. In addition, we will use PacBio technology to generate long DNA reads (>4kb) in order to better assemble the sequencing data into continuous genomic regions. The bacterial DNA will be extracted and sequenced together with Azolla's. Because of the high sequencing volume and smaller genomes, bacterial genomes can be easily assembled alongside with Azolla.
As a start, the funding of $15,000 will get us reasonably good quality genomes for the Azolla superorganism that can jumpstart various exciting research programs. Of course, additional support would give us all that much more leverage and take us further down the road!