Small molecules are intimately involved in many physical and biological interactions in the environment, from chemical ecology to applications in human health. Yet despite over 100 years of chemical analysis of the natural world it remains difficult to rapidly and accurately identify 'natural products' from complex mixtures. This limits our ability to determine causal relationships between compounds and biological phenomena, such as the influence of environmental toxins on health outcomes.
In this presentation I will describe some of the current challenges in this area, and present examples of public, open-source technologies and resources that are being developed to advance our collective understanding of the chemical world. These will include the Natural Products Atlas (www.npatlas.org), a database of all known microbial metabolites, and informatics tools such as SNAP-MS for automated metabolite identification.