Students and scientists present at ASLO


Seven undergraduate students will present their research findings at the 2015 ASLO Aquatic Sciences Meeting in Granada Spain next week from work completed under the mentorship of scientists from Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. Thousands of scientists from around the globe will be coming together at the meeting sponsored by the Association of Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO) to discuss global and regional patterns of aquatic systems.

"This meeting serves as a global platform for the world's experts to share information, data, and new understandings that participants take home and incorporate into their own research," explains Dr. David Fields, who leads the undergraduate research program at Bigelow Laboratory in East Boothbay. "We are delighted to provide this opportunity for students for it will not only expand their thinking, but they will have the unique chance to present their research findings in a professional setting amongst leaders in oceanographic research. It will be quite an amazing learning experience for them."

The seven students will be accompanied by their Bigelow Laboratory mentors. In addition to Fields, Senior Research Scientists Ramunas Stepanauskas, Barney Balch, Paty Matrai, Michael Lomas, Joaqu�n Mart�nez Mart�nez, and Benjamin Twining will be in Spain with the group and making presentations to the international body. Postdoctoral Researchers Steven Baer and Meredith White round out the Bigelow Laboratory contingent.

"This meeting comes at a critical time for the oceans and is a superb venue for sharing what is known about ocean health, its processes, and ongoing changes in the global ocean," says Matrai, who also served as treasurer of ASLO. "All of us will come away from it with new knowledge, possible collaborations with our peers around the globe, and an up-to-date view of relevant scientific findings to our own research here."

Stepanauskas will report on how in less than a decade, microbial single cell genomics (SCG) has evolved from science fiction to a robust, high-throughput research technology. Stepanauskas heads the first-of-its-kind-in-the world Single Cell Genomics Center at Bigelow Laboratory. He will review the many advances made possible using SCG - from the recovery of genomic blueprints of yet uncultured microbial lineages, enabling better understanding of their metabolic capabilities and evolutionary histories, to cultivation-free analysis of in situ microbial interactions - and discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in this dynamic research field.

Matrai will be presenting the results of Younjoo Lee, her postdoctoral researcher, on changes in primary production and its possible consequences in the Arctic Ocean as predicted by models. The scientists used a unique data set to assess how ocean color models and global/regional circulation models simulate primary production in the Arctic Ocean over multiple years and regions.

She will again act as mentor throughout the week to five U.S. undergraduate and graduate students participating in the ASLO Minority Program.

Balch will be presenting work developed with coauthor and Bigelow Laboratory Director of Research and Education, Benjamin Twining on the Great Calcite Belt, a high-reflectance region of the Southern Ocean that is caused by unusually high concentrations of calcifying plants called coccolithophores. The Great Calcite Belt covers 16 percent of the global ocean, making it the largest coccolithophore bloom on earth. Balch and co-authors have been examining the factors that influence its growth and development.

Fields will be presenting on marine viruses and how they affect processes in aquatic systems, as part of an interdisciplinary project funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation to a number of Bigelow Laboratory researchers. Mart�nez Mart�nez will be presenting on another aspect of this project that shows how viruses can influence photosynthesis and the carbon flow in the ocean.

Fields also will be chairing two sessions of the meeting - one on undergraduate research in marine and aquatic sciences, and the other on the evolutionary effects of ocean warming and acidification.

Postdoc Baer will be presenting on how the ratio of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous affect phytoplankton in the North Atlantic Ocean. Baer and Bigelow Laboratory colleague Lomas will report on how these elemental ratios connect to biogeochemical cycling, their underlying environmental and biological variability, and how they might impact global ocean modeling. Lomas will also take this work global, reporting on data from a variety of ocean basins looking at the implications of climate change on different marine communities and biogeochemical cycles and how they might respond to ongoing changes.

Postdoc White will be presenting results of her ocean acidification research and its effects on simple predator/prey relationships and resulting impact on the ocean's biological pump.

The students who will be joining these scientists are: Sarah Erskine from Wheaton College, Colton Funkhouser from Colby College, Alicia Hoeglund, from Truman State University, Nicholas Marquis from Southern State Community College, Daniel Seidman from Brown University, Allison Sharrar from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and Amy Webb from the University of Southern Maine. They were part of the 2014 National Science Foundation-funded Research Experience for Undergraduates program at Bigelow Laboratory. Nicholas Marquis will be presenting the first large-scale survey for protozoan parasites in the Gulf of Maine.

The Bigelow Laboratory cohort promises to share what they learn over the course of the meeting. Check back here regularly for updates or follow along at @Bigelowlab. #####