Back to top anchor
Open main menu Close main menu

Metagenomics Summer School builds capability across the motu

Metagenomics is the study of the genetic material recovered from environmental samples – a mixture of DNA from multiple organisms. The technique has a wide range of practical applications. 


Metagenomics is already used in a variety of contexts, including the influence of the gut microbiome on human health, diagnostics of unknown diseases in animals for production and conservation, and biogeochemical cycling in the environment.

Genomics Aotearoa is continuing to build capability to make full use of this emerging practice. That means investing in training, something the Genomics Aotearoa Environmental Microbiomes team at the University of Auckland has successfully addressed through its annual Metagenomics Summer School.

The goal of the summer school is to increase exposure to open-source bioinformatics methods used in environmental metagenomics, and the Summer School is raising awareness of what metagenomics can deliver, and providing networking opportunities. 

What we are doing

The week-long in-person workshop is both practical and theoretical, focusing on current best practices in metagenomics, and guides learners step-by-step through a metagenomics workflow with hands-on analysis in a mini project.

 NeSI provides computational resources, troubleshooting assistance, and training in command-line fundamentals. The joint team has created an open-source workflow resource. 

Genomics Aotearoa Trainer Jian Sheng Boey said this is providing a base for learners from universities, CRIs and the private sector to start applying metagenomics in their research. 

“The workflow we have developed for this workshop is highly flexible. It can be a jumping-off point for tailoring workflows better suited to a group’s research questions or needs. And the beginner-friendly structure and open-source materials helps build capability within a research group new to metagenomics,” he said. 

The benefits 

One person who has attended and is now using their new-found skills is Priscila Salloum of the Department of Zoology, University of Otago. “As well as working on a pilot project in our lab to use metagenomic data and the potential to train students in the near future to incorporate the approach into their projects, I have been writing a Marsden Fast Start application that is going to require metagenomics analysis, which was greatly inspired by the knowledge acquired in this workshop.”

The impact

Lead researcher Kim Handley (University of Auckland) said that the impact of the school is demonstrated by its popularity. “We’re pleased with the results – we are now seeing enhanced bioinformatics skills in researchers, across teams and their organisations." 

"That capability ultimately creates more opportunities for researchers.”

Read more about Environmental microbiomes here