PriME Project: Large-Scale Implications of Micro-Scale Microbial Ecosystem Dynamics
Microbes are the engines of global biogeochemical cycling on Earth. Marine microbes in particular are responsible for approximately half of all photosynthesis on the planet and drive the ‘biological pump’, which transfers organic carbon from the surface to the deep ocean. As such, it is important to mechanistically understand marine microbial dynamics in order to understand and predict changes to the global carbon cycle. Naomi Levine’s research seeks to understand emergent microbial ecosystem function (e.g., rates of carbon cycling) that arise from microbe-microbe and microbe-environment interactions in the ocean. Her group builds microbial ecosystem models based on overarching principles of microbial ecosystems derived from observations. They integrate these biological models into physical and chemical models which capture realistic environmental conditions. The model results can then be compared against oceanographic observations to provide testable hypotheses as to the dominant mechanisms driving the observed patterns of microbial ecosystems and biogeochemical cycling. This work will focus on understanding the cost-benefits of microbial co-growth and the impact of these interactions on ocean scale carbon, nitrogen and sulfur cycling.
Naomi M. Levine is a Gabilan Assistant Professor at the University of Southern California where she holds joint appointments in the Departments of Marine and Environmental Biology, Quantitative and Computational Biology, and Earth Sciences. She received her B.A. in geosciences from Princeton University and her Ph.D. in chemical oceanography from the MIT-WHOI Joint Program. Levine’s research focuses on understanding the interactions between climate and marine microbial ecosystem composition and function. The Levine lab is developing innovative, interdisciplinary numerical models that allow them to understand how dynamics occurring at the scale of individual microbes impact large-scale ecosystem processes such as rates of global carbon cycling. Levine is an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellow, a Simons Foundation Early Career Investigator and an NSF CAREER award recipient.