Metabolic Ecology & Transcriptomics

Phytoplankton live in a dynamic habitat where temperatures may fluctuate over 25 ºC, nutrient concentrations may change over orders of magnitude and salinities may range from brackish to open ocean water. This project seeks to unlock the black box of diatom metabolism to understand how exactly these organisms deal with both stressful and beneficial conditions. In other words, how do they survive periods of low nutrients, for example and how do they respond to conditions supportive of rapid growth and bloom formation? As part of this project, we are conducting in depth laboratory studies of diatom physiology, paired with transcriptomics, to understand how gene regulation in response to different growth conditions. We then take this approach out into the field. We have begun to pair field samples with deck-board incubations to obtain metatranscriptomes. This approach allows us to investigate how complex, interacting communities of phytoplankton are responding to their environment. This research has been funded by the National Science Foundation and is being conducted in collaboration with Professors Bethany Jenkins (URI) and Sonya Dyhrman (Columbia University). Click here for related publications.