EarthWords is an on-going series in which we shed some light on the complicated, often difficult-to-pronounce language of science. Think of us as your terminology tour-guides, and meet us back here every week for a new word!
The EarthWord: Genomics
- Computers were not the first to use code. Genomics is a field of science that determines the structure and function and explains an organism’s complete collection of DNA, including all it’s genes.
- Gene+omics- The study of the complete genome of an organism
- The first known use of the word was in 1987, when the new journal Genomics was published. Writing in the journal, V. A. McKusik and F. H. Ruddle credit T. H. Roderick of the Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, Maine, for suggesting the term which described the newly developing discipline of mapping/sequencing (including analysis of the information). “The new discipline is born from a marriage of molecular and cell biology with classical genetics and is fostered by computational science." (A new discipline, a new name, a new journal [editorial]. Genomics 1987 Sep. 1:1-2.)
Use/Significance in the Earth Science Community:
- Genomics applies directly to environmental sciences. By assessing genes in environmental samples (from plants and animals), we can determine the roles different communities play in environmental processes (such as nutrient cycling), or changes in community composition that occur across environments. Conservation genomics helps support healthy biological communities and maintain ecosystem services.
- USGS scientists develop methods and characterize how the genome of an organism functionally responds to environmental conditions including exposure to biotic and abiotic stressors. Examples include responses to thermal stress or contaminant exposure.
- USGS scientists have used genomics to assess genomic differences within and among species. These differences are used to identify biologically-appropriate units of management to aid in the conservation of rare, threatened, and endangered species.
- In addition, our scientists evaluate host-pathogen interactions at the molecular level by evaluating the expression of genes in the context of final health outcome.