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Behavior of Marine Microbes Reveals Changes in Global Carbon Cycle

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27416_microbe350A team of scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) was granted $1 million by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Marine Microbiology Initiative,  to study changes in the carbon cycle due to food, consumed by marine microbes.

The method, which will be tested by Xavier Mayali, Jennifer Pett-Ridge, both from LLNL, and a team of scientists from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Oregon State University, will combine various high-precision isotope techniques and molecular biology methods. The aim is to trace the movement of nutrients within marine ecosystems, to establish preferences and study the influence of microbes on the ocean carbon.

Considering that fixed ocean carbon is one of the main factors controlling rates of climate change and greenhouse gas concentrations released in the atmosphere, the team is determined to understand the processes that occur in this precious ecosystem.

The study will be conducted in the area of Monterey Bay, where the team has already done an extensive sampling of the marine ecosystem. They will use traditional stable isotopic probing approaches combined with more advanced mass-spectrometry techniques, to define species-specific functions within the natural communities.

The scientists have set a number of prime goals including outlining food preferences of microbes within well characterized coastal upwelling systems, understanding how nutrients control the utilization of organic matter, defining interactions between species, and developing a generic approach to combine isotope labelling with rRNA analysis, for understanding marine habitats.

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