Erin Bertrand, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Dalhousie UniversityErin Bertrand’s website

CBIOMES Project: Proteomic insights into cellular foundations of marine ecosystems

Marine microbes are the foundation of most marine ecosystems and play critical roles in the ocean’s response to climate change. However, we still lack basic information about how these microbes use available resources to grow, and how that resource use changes as their environment changes. Without this information, we are limited in our ability to predict how the growth of marine microbes will change in the future, and what the consequences of those changes will be for ocean chemistry and biology. To address this, we will make measurements of the proteins marine microbes produce when they grow under different conditions. Proteins give us a unique window into how those microbes grow because they account for a large portion of cellular resources, and they also encode information that tells us about which microbe made them and what they might be used for. We will combine these protein measurements, made in the ocean, with various types of numerical models, to improve our understanding of resource use during marine microbial growth and its consequences for ocean processes.

Erin M. Bertrand is an associate professor in the Department of Biology at Dalhousie University. She received her B.Sc. in chemistry and environmental studies from Bates College in 2005 and her Ph.D. in chemical oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 2012. She carried out postdoctoral research training at Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the J. Craig Venter Institute before joining the faculty at Dalhousie in 2015. In 2017, Bertrand was named a Simons Foundation Early Career Investigator in Marine Microbial Ecology and Evolution. She is a Canada Research Chair in Marine Microbial Proteomics.

Bertrand’s research is driven by her passion for connecting molecular-level processes with global scale implications. Her overarching research aim is to use measurements of proteins and protein co-factors in ocean microbes to better understand how these organisms interact with ocean chemistry to underpin global biogeochemical cycles and food webs. Some of her most impactful contributions to date include: (1) the first evidence for cobalamin limitation of ocean phytoplankton communities and the first molecular tools to track and trace this limitation; (2) the identification of protein markers to identify micronutrient co-limitation; and (3) the first cellular protein allocation models to leverage metaproteomic data to infer biogeochemical rates, quotas and other biogeochemical processes.

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