Big News for the Study of the Ocean’s Smallest Organisms
BIOS is one of thirteen academic and research institutions participating in a newly-announced National Science Foundation (NSF) Science and Technology Center (STC) intended to develop a deeper understanding of the role that marine microbes play in changing ocean conditions and the global carbon cycle. Over the next five years, the STC will leverage recent scientific advances, incorporate new technologies, and engage educators and policymakers to promote a deeper understanding of the chemicals and chemical processes that underpin ocean ecosystems.
The Center for Chemical Currencies of a Microbial Planet (C-CoMP) will be based at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Woods Hole, Massachusetts and co-directed by the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia.. Other participating institutions in C-CoMP include Boston College, Boston University, Columbia University, the Marine Biological Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ohio State University, Stanford University, the University of Florida, the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, and the University of Virginia.
Professor Nick Bates, BIOS senior scientist and director of research, led the Institution’s involvement with the project, whose planning process began nearly two years ago. Bates is also principal investigator for the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS), an NSF-funded research program that has been making repeat measurements of the biological, chemical, and physical properties of the North Atlantic Ocean on a monthly basis for over 30 years.
“The STC will use BATS as a site for sampling and using new and novel approaches to understand how ocean biology, and the microbial ocean world, recycles organic carbon back to carbon dioxide, and if this is changing,” Bates said.
Data from BATS will be crucial in accomplishing C-CoMP’s larger goals. Scientists involved with the project are looking to develop a more complete understanding of the chemical-microbe networks, or currencies, that control the global carbon cycle and feedbacks on climate. They also want to clarify the connections between different organisms.
The center aims to integrate research, education, and knowledge transfer activities, as well as support interdisciplinary science teams to close these knowledge gaps. For BIOS, this means the STC will be offering research opportunities to faculty and a suite of new educational programs for local participating students.
“As the educational plans of the STC develop, we aim to bring several Bermudian undergraduate and graduate students into the course-based research experiences at BIOS and research opportunities offered by the STC,” Bates said.
Implementation for the STC is slated to begin in October 2021. The initial phase of the project will run for five years. If successful, it will be funded for another five years.