ECIMMEE Project: Understanding Seasonal Microdiversity Patterns of Coastal Synechococcus
Marine microbes harbor incredible diversity in genetics, metabolisms and ecologies. While broad differences may be expected among lineages, striking differences are often observed among members of a genus or species. A current challenge in microbiology is to understand the functional role of this microdiversity. How such differences are maintained among closely related members and how differences contribute to ecosystem stability and processes are open questions. Answers will provide insight into the factors that drive microbial population dynamics and community composition. Marine picocyanobacteria are an excellent model system to explore these questions. They are widespread, critically important primary producers that exhibit strain differences in both physiology and ecology. This research project focuses on understanding the role of diversity within a temperate, coastal Synechococcus population on the New England Shelf through a combination of time-series sampling and analysis, physiological and ecological experiments with cultured Synechococcus and their predators, and construction of models to link laboratory and field observations. This work will provide insights into the factors that select for microdiversity within a microbial population, including seasonal environmental changes, and how diversity shapes population dynamics and community interactions.
Kristen R. Hunter-Cevera is a Hibbitt Early Career Fellow at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. She is interested in how environmental variables, species interactions and underlying diversity structure affect microbial community dynamics and stability. Her research focuses on the marine cyanobacterium Synechococcus as a model to explore these questions through a combination of field observations, laboratory culture experiments and modeling. She received a B.S. in biology and mathematics in 2008, and an M.B.A. in 2009 from West Virginia University. She earned a Ph.D. in biological oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program in 2014 with a National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship.