Metagenomics is the study of genetic material recovered directly environmental samples. The broad field may also be referred to as environmental genomics,ecogenomics or community genomics.  Metagenomics offers a powerful lens for viewing the microbial world that has the potential to revolutionize understanding of the entire living world. As the price of DNA sequencing continues to fall, metagenomics now allows microbial ecology to be investigated at a much greater scale and detail than before.

        The data generated by metagenomics experiments are both enormous and inherently noisy, containing fragmented data representing as many as 10,000 species. The sequencing of the cow rumen metagenome generated 279 gigabases, or 279 billion base pairs of nucleotide sequence data, while the human gut microbiome gene catalog identified 3.3 million genes assembled from 567.7 gigabases of sequence data. Collecting, curating, and extracting useful biological information from datasets of this size represent significant computational challenges for researchers.