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Queen’s University leading global research project aimed at reducing methane emissions

A global research project led by Queen's University Belfast and involving 24 institutions and universities worldwide, will explore the microbial world within rumen, a complex and little-studied ecosystem in livestock.

The international RUMEN Gateway project brings together a multidisciplinary team of experts, including microbiologists, animal scientists, and bioinformaticiansmany of whom form part of the Rumen Microbial Genomics network of the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases.  

Using advanced techniques including culturomics, genomics, and bioinformatics, the project aims to create the world's most comprehensive open-access collection of rumen microorganisms.  

The project will enhance scientific understanding of rumen, a characteristic feature of the digestion in cows, which is crucial for speeding up solutions to reduce livestock methane emissions. 

The well-being and productivity of animals such as cows and sheep largely depend on the microorganisms in their fore-stomachs, known as the rumen. These microorganisms play a crucial role in breaking down plant materials that animals are unable to digest, thereby converting these substances into vital nutrients. However, a side effect of this metabolic process is the production of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes significantly to climate warming.  

In response, the RUMEN Gateway project aims to isolate, characterise, and catalogue the diverse microorganisms within the rumen to achieve a comprehensive understanding of these complex microbial ecosystems. This understanding will help develop strategies to reduce methane emissions whilst also enhancing animal health and productivity. 

The project is led by Professor Sharon Huws, an expert in animal science and microbiology and Director of Research for the School of Biological Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast. She will work with Dr Fernanda Godoy Santos, Animal Scientist and Agricultural Microbiologist at Queen’s University and Principal Scientist on the project who will be responsible for scientific coordination, Dr James Pickup, a Microbiologist at Queen’s who specialises in anaerobic work and Principal Manager of the project, and Theano Stoikidou, a PhD student at Queen’s.   

Commenting on the announcement, Professor Huws said: “I am delighted to lead the RUMEN Gateway project from the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University Belfast working with world-leading scientists across the world.  

“This project will provide the largest global biobank of rumen microbes, that will allow a major step change in our understanding of this complex ecosystem, particularly in light of the urgent need to reduce methane emissions from ruminants.” 

The project will involve collaborators from the Joint Genome Institute (JGI) led by Data Scientist, Rekha Seshadri. JGI will be responsible for the genome sequencing and database creation aspects of the research. 

The approximately £1.5 million project is funded by the Global Methane Hub.

“The RUMEN Gateway project is vital to enhance scientific understanding of the rumen, which is crucial for speeding up solutions to reduce livestock methane emissions, globally”, said Hayden Montgomery, Agriculture Programme Director from the Global Methane Hub. 

“The project is one the first coming out of an exciting new public, private and philanthropic partnership, the Enteric Fermentation Research & Development Accelerator, a more than $200 million funding initiative launched on 2nd December at the United Nations climate conference in Dubai.” 


Media inquiries to Sian Devlin at