Hello Sea Grant community! This is a blog update from the Center for Microbial Oceanographic Research and Education (C-MORE) at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where I’ve been participating in a summer training program for the last five weeks. The course, “Microbial Oceanography: Genomes to Biomes,” is offered to graduate students and postdoctoral scholars with interests in marine microbiology and biological oceanography. As an Oregon-based zooplankton ecologist, I felt like a bit of an odd duck in a microbial oceanography training program in the oligotrophic North Pacific subtropical gyre. But, since I study predator-prey interactions, and my study organisms (appendicularians) feed on microbes, I decided I would benefit from a more comprehensive perspective of the prey. The C-MORE summer program provided the idyllic introduction to microbes, including a weeklong research cruise aboard the R/V Kilo Moana, during which we measured processes such as bacterial production using tritium-labeled leucine incorporation, primary production using 14C, cell types and abundances using flow cytometry, and particulate carbon and nitrogen flux using sediment traps.
I’m excited that my work with microbes will continue in Oregon through the support of a Julie and Rocky Dixon Graduate Innovation Award, a fellowship designed to support Oregon doctoral students who are interested in pursuing innovative, “nontraditional” career development experiences. I received the fellowship to extend my collaboration with Oregon Sea Grant to develop an educational exhibit on marine microbes. Through my research, I plan to produce a collection of microscopy images of the ocean’s more abundant microbes (e.g. Synechococcus, Prochlorococcus, Pelagibacter, Ostreococcus), which can then be an educational tool, promoting public understanding of the critical role of bacteria in marine food webs.
One of the microscopes I plan to use to produce such images is an Atomic Force Microscope. I just began training on our instrument at the University of Oregon.
The microscope is rather finicky, and I’m still working on the best technique for immobilizing cells, but if you squint hard enough at my first image, you can detect the spherical outline of a microalga cell.