A Genomics-enabled Microbial Observatory in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Monterey Bay, California

Created by George Rice, Montana State University

The Point Lobos MBARIs ship used for the monthly CTD cruises and aerial image of Monterey Bay.

The DeLong lab's scientific interests focus primarily on questions in microbial biology. A large part of the lab's efforts have been devoted to the study of microbes and microbial processes in the ocean, combining both laboratory and field-based approaches. In addition to specifically examining the role of archaea in marine microbial communities, the DeLong Lab has focused on the development and application of genomic technologies to answer fundamental questions central to microbial ecology and evolution. Much of the biological complexity of microbial ecosystems is encoded within the collective genomes of the community. Just as individual macromolecules can serve as documents of evolutionary history, naturally occurring genomes can provide unprecedented perspective on environmental, evolutionary and ecological history. Recent applications in the marine environment demonstrate that our understanding of the functional attributes, population biology, and natural history of extant microbes can now be significantly advanced using these new approaches.

Research Goals:

In the Monterey Bay, a typical milliliter of surface water contains on the order of a million microbial cells (in open ocean waters this drops to around one hundred thousand cells per milliliter). These small, single-celled planktonic microbes represent the most abundant organisms in the world's oceans. Some of these microbes contribute significantly to primary production in the sea, while others are responsible for consuming a large proportion of marine primary productivity. Planktonic microbial species are key players in the central chemical transformations of carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur, which help maintain the oceanic biosphere. However, despite their importance to the functioning of the Monterey Bay ecosystem, and as a model for understanding marine microbial communities in general, we are still only beginning to describe the microbes of the Bay. This Microbial Observatory is dedicated to deciphering, step by step, who these microbes are, how their communities change across time and space, and what they might be doing.

Project PI:

Picture of the PI in his office and diving in Montery Bay.
Edward F. DeLong
Professor, Division of Biological Engineering and Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering MIT,
e-mail: delong@mit.edu

(Visit the DeLong Lab Website )

Copyright on all images and material by Ed DeLong, 2005.

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