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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Doing Business As Name:Columbia University
  • Gwenn M Hennon
  • (907) 474-6735
  • Sonya Dyhrman
Award Date:02/20/2019
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 683,575
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 0
  • FY 2019=$0
Start Date:03/01/2019
End Date:08/31/2019
Transaction Type:Grant
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: Ecology and Evolution of Microbial Interactions in a Changing Ocean
Federal Award ID Number:1851101
DUNS ID:049179401
Parent DUNS ID:049179401
Program Officer:
  • Michael Sieracki
  • (703) 292-7585

Awardee Location

Street:2960 Broadway
County:New York
Awardee Cong. District:10

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory
Street:61 Rte 9W
Cong. District:17

Abstract at Time of Award

Carbon dioxide released from fossil fuels is causing the ocean to become more acidic. Much attention has been given to how this will affect shelled animals like corals, but acidification also affects the algae that form the base of the ocean food chain. It is possible that future algal communities will look very different than they do today, with potentially negative consequences for fisheries, recreation, and climate. Alternatively, it is possible that these algae will be able to adapt rapidly enough to avoid the worst of it. This study looks at algae adapting to acidification in real time in the lab, focusing on "marketplace" interactions between the algae and the bacteria they live alongside. The researchers also go to sea to learn whether adaptations from the lab experiments are beneficial under real-world conditions. Ultimately, this project is helping scientists better understand how the ocean's most important and most overlooked organisms will respond to the changes humans are causing in their habitat. The researchers also use their scientific work to create fun educational opportunities from grade school to college, including agar art classes where students learn about microbial ecology by "painting" with freshly-isolated ocean bacteria. The effect of ocean acidification on calcifying organisms has been well-studied, but less is known about how changing pH will affect phytoplankton. Previous work showed that the mutualistic interaction between the globally abundant cyanobacterium Prochlorococcus and its "helper" bacterium Alteromonas broke down under projected future CO2 conditions, leading to a strong decrease in the fitness of Prochlorococcus. It is possible that such interspecies interactions between microbes are important for many ecological processes, but a lack of understanding of how these interactions evolve makes it difficult to predict how important they are. This project is using laboratory evolution experiments to discover how evolution shapes the interactions between bacteria and algae like Prochlorococcus, and how these co-evolutionary dynamics might influence the biogeochemical processes that shape Earth's climate. Four research cruises to the Bermuda Atlantic Time Series are also planned to study how natural algal/bacterial communities respond to acidification, and whether evolved microbes from laboratory experiments have a competitive advantage in complex, natural communities exposed to elevated CO2. The ultimate goal of this project is to gain a mechanistic understanding of microbial interactions that can be used to inform models of Earth's oceans and biological feedbacks on global climate. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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