September nanoTalks: All About Fascinating Ocean Microbes
Talk 1: The Unknown Microbes that Power our Planet – Putting the Pieces Together
Presented by Lucas Paoli, PhD Candidate, Institute of Microbiology, ETH Zurich
The Amazon rainforest is often called the lung of the Earth, but oceans are the ones providing more than half of the oxygen we breathe. Marine microbes drive the biogeochemical cycles on this planet and sustain food webs critical for nearly half of the human population. However, decades after the identification and characterization of key marine bacterial species, 90% of the microbes responsible for these ecological services remain unknown. Deciphering the main fraction of microbial communities is a pressing task as they both affect and are affected by climate change. How can DNA sequencing technologies and bioinformatics help us peer into this unseen majority?
Talk 2: Putting the Ocean on a Chip
Presented by Johannes Keegstra, Postdoc, Environmental Microfluidics Group, ETH Zurich
The oceans are full of life and play a pivotal role in the planet’s carbon pump by capturing carbon from the atmosphere in return for oxygen and thereby regulating global CO2 levels. Recently, bacteria have been identified as mayor players in this biological carbon pump, by degrading slowly sinking particles of organic matter. This discovery has led to tremendous efforts in collecting data on the composition of microbial communities on the world’s seas and oceans. In turn, these data revealed enormous complexity and diversity of the bacterial communities. However, we currently lack principles to understand what actually determines the composition of these communities. Therefore, an alternative experimental strategy has to be executed in parallel, namely to try to discover simple principles of how different microbes live and function together using small synthetic communities that can be studied in the lab using microfluidics and microscopy. This talk will present some experimental data that reveals that in the process of bacterial colonization and growing on particles, it matters to colonize particles earlier than competitors. This implies that the composition and consequently degradation can vary enormously across particles in the ocean.
Supported by UZH Alumni.