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Villum Experiment: 51 researchers receive DKK 99 million DKK for research experiments

Shubiao Wu is among the 51 researchers who have received a grant from this year's Villum Experiment. With a grant of almost DKK 2 million. He will be the first to investigate how to use microbial pathways for a simultaneous reduction of methane and nitrous oxide from wetlands.

[Translate to English:] Foto: Villum Experiment

There is an urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, not only CO2, but also the more potent gases such as methane and nitrous oxide. Therefore, Associate Professor Shubiao Wu from the Department of Agroecology at Aarhus University has received a grant of almost DKK 2 million. from Villum Experiment to investigate how new microbial pathways can be used for a simultaneous mitigation of nitrous oxide and methane in wetlands.

“Wetlands are the world's largest natural source of methane emissions, in total it is estimated that they account for between 20-40% of the annual emissions. But approx. 50% of the methane produced in wetlands is oxidized before it reaches the atmosphere. It happens either aerobically or anaerobically,” explains Shubiao Wu. 

However, intensive cultivation of agriculture and the consequent increased use of fertilizers have significantly increased the supply of nitrogen to freshwater areas, and according to Shubiao Wu, this has complicated the microbial methane oxidation pathways.

New microbial pathways for oxidation of greenhouse gases

Villum Experiment provides grants in the order of 1-2 million. DKK for technical and scientific research projects that challenge the norm and have the potential to change the way we approach topics. 

Shubiao Wu’s project came through the eye of the needle, and out of a total of 400 applicants, he became one of the 51 selected researchers to receive a grant. This means that for the next two years he will work to identify and quantify new microbial pathways for a simultaneous mitigation of methane and nitrous oxide.

“We will work with a high-capacity culture method combined with the latest detection technology to isolate these the microbes that are responsible for the oxidation and uncover their genomic and metabolic secrets. The results will make a significant contribution to understanding the connection between the two major global cycles of carbon and nitrogen,” explains Shubiao Wu.

The project runs for two years. A total of 13 researchers from Aarhus University have received a similar grant this year. 

About the Villum Experiment

This year’s Villum Experiment Programme grantees have been selected from a highly competitive field of almost 400 applicants that have come through a unique ‘eye-of-the-needle’ selection process. During the selection process, the applicants were anonymised for the assessment panel. The 21 international assessors have thus not had the opportunity to peek at the applicants’ CVs and academic credentials, and have therefore judged the research ideas solely on the basis of whether they challenge the norm and have the potential to change the world and our knowledge of it. 

“The Villum Experiment Programme is an experiment in itself. In the programme, we commission free creative research and experiments for up to DKK 100 million annually. With high venture capital and an anonymous selection process, we want to contribute to testing far-out research ideas and unconventional takes on the world. No one can predict where the next major scientific breakthroughs will occur, and we firmly believe in the potential of unleashing the researchers’ own creativity,” says Thomas Bjørnholm, Executive Chief Scientific Officer, VILLUM FONDEN.

Additional information
FundingThe project is funded by the Villum Experiment
CollaboratorsDepartment of Agroecology
ContactAssociate Professor Shubiao Wu, Department of Agroecology, Aarhus Universitet. Email: wushubiao@agro.au.dk