ECIMMEE Project: Quantifying microbial ecosystem functions via high-resolution time series
Marine microbes (collectively the single-celled members of the domains bacteria, archaea and eukarya) carry out an exhaustive array of metabolic activities with profound consequences for human and ecosystem health. Specific metabolic outcomes of marine microbes can be viewed as microbial ecosystem functions; for example, diazotrophic marine microbes carry out the critical ecosystem function of nitrogen fixation. Ecosystem functions collectively support marine ecosystem services, which are broad benefits society obtains through access to a properly functioning marine ecosystem. Microbial metabolism is correlated with taxonomy, albeit imperfectly as a result of horizontal gene transfer, genome duplications and genome streamlining. A reasonable supposition based on this correlation is that microbial ecosystem function is a result of the taxonomic and physiological state of the microbial community. In the proposed work I will test this broad hypothesis by developing a high-resolution time series of microbial community structure and predicted gene content. The time series will be guided by an intelligent sampling algorithm to capture stochastic features and will be coupled to continuous measurements of net community production (NCP, a measure of community physiology) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs, the production of which is a key ecosystem function). To integrate these data, I will employ new data analysis and modeling techniques with the goal of building predictive, mechanistic models of key microbial ecosystem functions.
Jeff Bowman is an assistant professor in the Integrative Oceanography Division at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. His research focuses on the biogeochemical role of marine microbes in the Earth system and the process by which genetic and community structures enable specific ecosystem functions. He received his Ph.D. in oceanography and astrobiology from the University of Washington, where he studied the microbial ecology of sea ice and other cold environments. Prior to joining the faculty at Scripps, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University. There he developed new informatics techniques for assessing the ecological function of marine microbial communities in the Palmer Long Term Ecological Research Site off the western Antarctic Peninsula.