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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Awardee:WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION
Doing Business As Name:Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
PD/PI:
  • Harriet Alexander
  • (508) 289-3565
  • halexander@whoi.edu
Award Date:03/10/2020
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 442,232
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 442,232
  • FY 2020=$442,232
Start Date:03/15/2020
End Date:02/28/2023
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: Defining the role of the pan genome in Emiliania huxleyi ecology and biogeography
Federal Award ID Number:1948025
DUNS ID:001766682
Parent DUNS ID:001766682
Program:BIOLOGICAL OCEANOGRAPHY
Program Officer:
  • Michael Sieracki
  • (703) 292-7585
  • msierack@nsf.gov

Awardee Location

Street:183 OYSTER POND ROAD
City:WOODS HOLE
State:MA
ZIP:02543-1041
County:Woods Hole
Country:US
Awardee Cong. District:09

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Street:266 Woods Hole Road MS #39
City:Woods Hole
State:MA
ZIP:02543-1535
County:Woods Hole
Country:US
Cong. District:09

Abstract at Time of Award

Emiliania huxleyi is a numerically and ecologically important phytoplankton species in the ocean known for its cosmopolitan distribution and ability to form large blooms in coastal and open ocean regions. Studies of E. huxleyi variants in culture have found differences in growth, function and activity potential among them. The E. huxleyi variants also differ in some of the genes they carry. It has been hypothesized that this genomic variability may underlie the global success of this phytoplankton species by allowing adaptation of variants to diverse environments. Yet, the direct connection between genomic content and ecological success remains unclear. This project investigates how the conserved and variable portions of E. huxleyi genome may be connected to its success and its dynamics under varied environmental conditions. This work is critical to our understanding of how this important phytoplankton species may shift and respond to future changes. This project also supports the development of a series of hands-on activities designed to teach middle school students advance computational data analysis in ocean science. These activities are in collaboration with the Girls Who Code Club at the Our Sisters School, ‘a tuition-free, non-sectarian, independent school for girls from low-income families’ located in New Bedford, MA. Understanding how phytoplankton diversity and phenotype are driven by changes in the environment is crucial for better predicting carbon cycle dynamics in the future ocean. While much work has investigated competition among phytoplankton species, intraspecific diversity and dynamics remain largely unknown for many eukaryotic phytoplankton. The overarching goal of this project is to define the role of the pan genome (set of variable genes) in E. huxleyi ecology and biogeography through a series of genomic analyses, computational field surveys, and laboratory-based experiments. This project is sequencing the genomes of several E. huxleyi isolates from across the global ocean and combining them with existing genome sequences to constrain the core and variable portions of the pan genome. Using this new pan genome reference database and leveraging global scale metagenomics and metatranscriptomic surveys, this project is estimating ecotype diversity of E. huxleyi across ocean regions to identify patterns of environmental selection. This project additionally focuses on identifying the physiological and transcriptional responses of a selection of sequenced strains and their responses to shifts in their nutrient environments in controlled laboratory studies. As E. huxleyi plays such a significant role in marine ecosystems and the global carbon cycle it is important that its pan genome and its impact on the biogeography and ecology of E. huxleyi is taken into consideration. It is likely that these dynamics are acutely important to predicting how this genus, and perhaps others, respond to changing environmental conditions in the future ocean. 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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