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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

Awardee:UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SANTA CRUZ
Doing Business As Name:University of California-Santa Cruz
PD/PI:
  • Kendra A Turk-Kubo
  • (831) 459-3128
  • kturk@ucsc.edu
Award Date:07/14/2020
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 543,521
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 543,521
  • FY 2020=$543,521
Start Date:04/01/2021
End Date:03/31/2024
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: Quantifying N2 fixation rates of noncyanobacterial diazotrophs and environmental controls on their activity
Federal Award ID Number:2023498
DUNS ID:125084723
Parent DUNS ID:071549000
Program:BIOLOGICAL OCEANOGRAPHY
Program Officer:
  • Michael Sieracki
  • (703) 292-7585
  • msierack@nsf.gov

Awardee Location

Street:1156 High Street
City:Santa Cruz
State:CA
ZIP:95064-1077
County:Santa Cruz
Country:US
Awardee Cong. District:20

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:University of California, Santa Cruz
Street:1156 High Street, Ocean Sciences Department
City:Santa Cruz
State:CA
ZIP:95064-1020
County:Santa Cruz
Country:US
Cong. District:20

Abstract at Time of Award

Nitrogen (N) is an important element in the ocean that limits the growth of the microscopic marine plants, phytoplankton. Estimates suggest N inputs and losses may not be balanced in the modern ocean, and thus an underestimation of N inputs may explain this imbalance. The conversion of gaseous N2 to biologically available N (N2 fixation) is the largest source of new N to the ocean. It is possible that the “missing” N can be explained by identifying new sources of N2 fixation. N2 fixation relies on a group of microorganisms, termed “diazotrophs,” that utilize N2 for growth, unlike other marine microorganisms. Diazotrophs fall into two groups, cyanobacterial diazotrophs, which are able to derive energy through photosynthesis, and non-cyanobacterial diazotrophs (NCDs), which require a non-light-based energy source. Next to nothing is known about the ecology and biology of NCDs, except that they are ubiquitous in the ocean and contain the nitrogen fixing gene, but no direct measurements of their N2 fixation activity exist. Recent molecular advances for studying organisms at the single cell level now makes the measurement of N2 fixation by NCDs possible. This study is focused on determining whether marine NCDs are actually fixing N2 in the environment and understanding how their N2 fixation is modulated. Determining if NCD activity is an important missing N source in the global oceans has the potential to fill a critical gap in our understanding of the marine N cycle. This project supports early career STEM researchers including a graduate student and a postdoctoral scientist, as well as undergraduate students through several programs including UCSC’s California Alliance for Minority Participation (CAMP). Nitrogen fixation, the microbial process of converting N2 into biologically available ammonia, is an important source of N in the oceans. Historically, research has focused on the most conspicuous diazotrophs, such as Trichodesmium, but the discovery of unicellular cyanobacterial and non-cyanobacterial diazotrophs (NCDs) in the open ocean revealed a broader diversity than previously thought. Much of what is known about NCDs is restricted to presence, abundance estimates and transcriptional activity from gene surveys. NCDs are globally distributed throughout coastal and oligotrophic environments, however, it is not known whether NCDs supply N to support primary productivity. Measurements of marine NCDs are needed to determine if NCDs are actively fixing N2. This study is focused on measuring single cell NCD N2 fixation rates from a variety of taxa living in well-lit, oxygen-rich coastal and oligotrophic surface waters in the North Pacific and Arctic Oceans. The investigators are using a cultivation-independent technique called geneFISH to microscopically visualize and localize NCDs and measuring the incorporation of 15N2 into single cells using nanoscale secondary ion mass spectrometry. Beyond measuring in situ NCD N2 fixation rates, experiments are being conducted to determine environmental controls on single cell NCD N2 fixation (light, temperature, dissolved organic matter, dissolved inorganic N, and iron). Obtaining single cell NCD N2 fixation rates from a range of taxa, under different experimental conditions and in coastal and oligotrophic environments will provide information to link their presence to N2 fixation activity, determine the quantitative significance of NCDs in the marine environment, and set the stage for their inclusion in biogeochemical models. 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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