Tracing the Unseen Majority: Insights Into the Critical Role Microbes Play in the Ocean

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About Interdisciplinary

Interdisciplinary lectures are open to the public and are held at the Gerald D. Fischbach Auditorium at the Simons Foundation headquarters in New York City. Tea is served prior to each lecture.

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There is a vast sea of microbes — invisible to all but the most powerful microscopes — that drives ocean chemistry, affects climate and even produces the fish we eat and the air we breathe. Ocean microbes make the planet habitable, but major uncertainties still exist about the distribution and activity of key groups of microbes.

In this lecture, Sonya Dyhrman will focus on photosynthetic microbes called phytoplankton, highlighting the critical and beneficial roles that phytoplankton play in marine systems. These phytoplankton form the base of the marine food web and drive carbon and nitrogen cycling, yet major uncertainties exist regarding how key groups are distributed and what controls their activities in different systems. Leveraging new species-specific molecular approaches, Dyhrman will highlight examples of how this unseen microbial world both shapes and is shaped by our changing planet.

About the Speaker

Sonya Dyhrman is an oceanographer who studies photosynthetic microbes and their role in shaping marine ecosystem structure, function and biogeochemistry. She received her Ph.D. from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and did her postdoctoral training at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, where she was a tenured member of the scientific staff until 2013, when she moved to Columbia University. Dyhrman spends much of her time at sea on research expeditions ranging from the tropics to Antarctica.

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