Marine microbes help fix carbon in the deep ocean, and this process is crucial to regulating the planet’s atmosphere. Unfortunately, a large portion of the microbes responsible for these various cycles are uncultured, and thus hard to study. As the global temperature shifts, it is more likely that conditions will favor smaller microbes that can tolerate more extreme environments, and therefore it is important to have these microbes cultured.
To combat these barriers to knowledge, researchers have developed an approach for “targeted metagenomics” which allows them to explore the gene complement of natural, uncultured eukaryotic phytoplankton populations. This project focuses on tiny microbes that, judging by their distribution across the global oceans, have been found to be very tolerant of a wide range of temperatures. The microbes play a major role in regulating earth’s atmosphere, primarily through photosynthesis, and then by moving the sequestered carbon dioxide into the deep ocean. From a bioenergy perspective, this study is expected to provide plenty of information on the light-harvesting strategies, electron capture, and forms of energy supplementation for microbes.
Principal Investigators: Alexandra Worden, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Program: CSP 2010