PriME Project: Scaling Up 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. The Simons Collaboration on Theory of Microbial Ecosystems (THE-ME) will provide new insight into microbial ecosystem dynamics occurring at the scale of individual microbes using cutting-edge technology. However, to understand the implications of these micro-scale dynamics for larger-scale carbon cycling, it is necessary to ‘scale up’ these processes. This project will develop an innovative modeling framework that will link microbial dynamics across scales and provide a platform for generating and testing hypotheses. The model will generalize the dynamics of micro-scale models, allowing for their inclusion in a biogeochemical/ecosystem model. This model will be used to simulate several different oceanic locations to investigate how microbial ecosystem dynamics might vary with oceanic region and how this alters large-scale biogeochemical cycling.
Naomi Levine is a Gabilan Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences and Earth Sciences at the University of Southern California. She received her B.A. in Geosciences from Princeton University and her Ph.D. in Chemical Oceanography from the MIT-WHOI Joint Program. Naomi’s interest in the interactions between fluctuating environments and ecosystem dynamics led her to join Paul Moorcroft’s lab at Harvard University as a NOAA Climate and Global Change Postdoctoral Fellow. In 2013, Naomi joined the faculty at USC, where she holds joint appointments in Marine and Environmental Biology, Molecular and Computational Biology, and Earth Sciences. Her research focuses on understanding the interactions between climate and marine microbial ecosystem composition and function. The Levine lab is developing novel modeling approaches that explicitly represent the response of dynamic microbial communities to a variable and changing environment. Naomi is the recipient of an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship in Ocean Sciences.