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Award Detail

Awardee:UNIVERSITY OF RHODE ISLAND
Doing Business As Name:University of Rhode Island
PD/PI:
  • Melissa Omand
  • (401) 874-6610
  • momand@uri.edu
Award Date:12/08/2016
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 59,710
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 59,710
  • FY 2017=$59,710
Start Date:12/15/2016
End Date:01/31/2019
Transaction Type:Grant
Agency:NSF
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.050
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:Collaborative Research: EAGER: Particle-specific DNA sequencing to directly observe ecological mechanisms of the biological pump
Federal Award ID Number:1703336
DUNS ID:144017188
Parent DUNS ID:075705780
Program:BIOLOGICAL OCEANOGRAPHY

Awardee Location

Street:RESEARCH OFFICE
City:KINGSTON
State:RI
ZIP:02881-1967
County:Kingston
Country:US
Awardee Cong. District:02

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:University of Rhode Island, Graduate School of Oceanography
Street:215 S Ferry Rd
City:Narrangsett
State:RI
ZIP:02882-1197
County:Narragansett
Country:US
Cong. District:02

Abstract at Time of Award

Carbon is fixed into organic matter by phytoplankton growing in the surface ocean, and is naturally sequestered in the ocean interior when particles and organisms sink: a process called the "biological pump." Because of its recognized influence on the global carbon cycle, ocean scientists have studied the biological pump for decades. However, we still do not have a sufficient understanding of the underlying processes to accurately quantify and predict carbon cycling. Much of this uncertainty stems from an inability to directly link specific plankton in the surface ocean with the types of particles sinking out of the surface ocean. To address this missing link in biological pump research, this work will directly observe how plankton are transported out of the surface ocean using novel, particle-specific observational approaches embedded within an interdisciplinary field program that will finely resolve upper ocean plankton groups and the resulting amount of sinking carbon across space and in time. The genetic identity of organisms within different types of sinking particles will be determined by sequencing the genetic contents of individually collected particles. This new application of a molecular method will definitively link surface plankton with sinking particles at five locations across the Pacific Ocean. This work has the potential to transform our understanding of the biological pump by identifying previously unknown links between surface ecosystems and sinking carbon particles. Because this work is embedded within an interdisciplinary field program, including biogeochemical modelers and remote sensing scientists, these data will feed directly into new models of the biological pump, improving our ability to quantify and predict carbon uptake by the ocean. This project will train 1 graduate student and at least 2 undergraduate researchers. Findings will be communicated to the non-scientific public through blogs, videos, and the public communication channels of participating institutions. Accurate prediction of the global carbon cycle requires an understanding of the specific processes that link surface plankton communities and sinking particulate carbon flux (export) out of the surface ocean, but current methodological paradigms in biological pump research do not directly observe these processes. This project will comprehensively determine who is exported from the surface ocean and how using new, particle-resolving optical and molecular techniques embedded within a sampling scheme that characterizes export events at high time and space resolution. The investigation suggests that different plankton types in the surface waters are transported out of the surface ocean by distinct export pathways, and that an understanding of these connections is critical knowledge for global carbon cycle modeling. If successful, this work has the potential to transform our conceptual understanding of the biological pump by directly identifying mechanisms that link surface plankton with particle export, without relying on bulk sampling schemes and large-scale correlation analysis. Particle export environments will be studied at five open ocean locations during a cruise from Hawaii to Seattle in January-February 2017. The surface plankton communities will be characterized by a combination of satellite observations, sensors attached to a free-drifting, continuously profiling WireWalker, an in situ holographic camera, microscopy, and by sequencing 18S and 16S rRNA gene fragments. Exported particles will simultaneously be captured by various specialized sediment traps and their characteristics will be directly related to their sources in the surface community by identifying the genetic contents of individual particle types. Individual particles will be isolated from gel layers and the 16S and 18S rRNA gene fragments will be amplified and sequenced. This work would, for the first time, combine molecular approaches with particle-specific observations to enable simultaneous identification of both which organisms are exported and the processes responsible for their export.

Publications Produced as a Result of this Research

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Omand, Melissa and Cetini?, Ivona and Lucas, Andrew "Using Bio-Optics to Reveal Phytoplankton Physiology from a Wirewalker Autonomous Platform" Oceanography, v.30, 2017, p.. doi:10.5670/oceanog.2017.233 Citation details  


Project Outcomes Report

Disclaimer

This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.

Understanding the magnitude and uncertaintities in the global carbon cycle, and how it will change under a changing climate, requires mechanistic understanding of the links between surface plankton communities and sinking particle flux (export) out of the surface. However, our current methodological paradigms do not directly resolve these mechanisms. This project represented an intesection of perspectives and training introduced by three early career female scientists (a biological, chemical and physical oceanographer), to address this deficiency. Using autonomous technology and ship-based measurements, they made observations who is exported from the surface ocean and how using new, particle-resolving optical and molecular techniques embedded within a sampling scheme that characterizes export events at high resolution (sufficient to even resolve diel pulses). This project formed the foundation of a MS thesis and involved a synthesis of particle- and molecular-level data with interdisciplinary particle flux observations. It directly led to the sucessful funding of this team in the EXPORTS campaign, and also funding to build autonomous Lagrangian RAFOS-style floats that target biological-pump measurements.

Particle export environments were studied at 3 open ocean locations during a cruise from Hawaii to Seattle in January-February 2017. The surface communities were characterized by a combination of satellite observations, sensors attached to a free-drifting, continuously profiling WireWalker, an in situ holographic camera, microscopy, and by sequencing 18S and 16S rRNA gene fragments. Exported particles were be simultaneously captured by various specialized sediment traps and their characteristics will be directly related to their sources in the surface community by identifying the genetic contents of individual particle types. Individual particles will be isolated from gel layers and the 16S and 18S rRNA gene fragments will be amplified and sequenced. This work was the first time that molecular approaches were combined with particle-specific observations to enable simultaneous identification of both which organisms are exported and the mechanisms responsible for their export. These data allowed testing of recent provocative hypotheses about the biological pump, such as the role of cyanobacteria and lesser-studied organisms, and the biological basis of short-term variability in carbon export. In addition, resolving the mechanistic links between surface communities and export is required for the next generation of biological pump models.


Last Modified: 07/10/2019
Modified by: Melissa Omand

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