Technical Themes of Engineering Biology for Climate & Sustainability
The roadmap’s technical themes focus on novel capabilities to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change and build and ensure resilient ecosystems. The Biosequestration of Greenhouse Gases theme addresses opportunities to capture and remove carbon dioxide, methane, and other harmful gases from the atmosphere and enable and strengthen carbon storage and conversion. The Mitigation of Environmental Pollution theme highlights opportunities to prevent and tackle pollution through bioremediation, biosequestration, and biodegradation of contaminants in the environment and from point-sources. And the Conservation of Ecosystems and Biodiversity theme addresses opportunities for engineering biology to contribute to the monitoring of ecosystem members and their health, distribution, and diversity, and pinpoints the need for strong biocontainment strategies that are necessary for all engineering biology applications.
The Goals and Breakthrough Capabilities in each theme are societal-level concerns and are written to be more approachable for non-technical audiences and those with expertise outside of engineering biology and related fields, identifying challenges they are likely to be familiar with regardless of their background or current role in addressing the climate crisis and sustainability challenges. The Milestones speak directly to the engineering biology tools and technologies that will need to be developed or enabled to achieve the Goals and Breakthrough Capabilities and are laid out over short-, medium-, and long-term timeframes, indicative of the resources, infrastructure, and other advancements necessary to their achievement. The Bottlenecks and Potential Solutions illustrate specific technical challenges that the engineering biology research community can attend to towards realizing each milestone.
Short-term Milestones are expected to be about 2-5 years away from achievement, representing research that is currently funded (or where funding opportunities exist) or could be accomplished with existing resources. Medium-term Milestones are tools and technologies anticipated to be achieved in approximately 5-10 years; these research areas likely need funding (including new grant/award programs) or infrastructure development, and other support at the institutional or federal level. Long-term Milestones are anticipated to be 10-20+ years from realization and, in most if not all cases, would require new funding, infrastructure, or other resources (including significant tool and technology development).