Microorganisms in the ocean's surface layer play an integral role in the exchange of carbon between the atmosphere and ocean. However, even small changes in the metabolism of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) by microorganisms can impact the delicate balance between oceanic and atmospheric CO2. The microbial processes that determine DOC production, consumption, and distribution in the ocean are key factors in the global carbon cycle.
The Oceanic Microbial Observatory aims to understand the cell biology and biogeochemical activities of major bacterioplankton groups. Scientists at BIOS, as well as partner institutions UC Santa Barbara and Oregon State University, are applying new technologies for cell culturing and studying both the metabolism of these organisms in nature, as well as their interactions with organic matter in the ocean. Research efforts are focused on the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS) site, located in a subtropical gyre with regular patterns of DOC cycling.
Recent developments from the Oceanic Microbial Observatory include:
- Sequencing the genome of SAR11, the single most successful group of bacteria in the ocean. With this information, scientists can work to identify genes that allow SAR11 to obtain carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus, which can provide insight into the secret of SAR11's success as a competitor in the world's ocean.
- Demonstrating temporal and seasonal variability among bacterioplankton and virioplankton populations and community structures.
- Improving capabilities to measure the quality and quantity of dissolved organic substrates.
For more information on the Oceanic Microbial Observatory, including current research foci, as well as data and databases, please visit the OMO homepage.
A time-series of SAR11 distribution in the upper 300m at BATS in 2003, showing both temporal and spatial variability.