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    Carl Johnson, a Research Specialist in the Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, inserts a sample of organic matter extracted from seawater into the high field magnet of a nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer located in the WHOI Fye Laboratory. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst.)
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    Trichodesmium strain H9-4 isolated from a site near Station ALOHA of the Hawaii Ocean Time Series study. Cyanobacteria such as Trichodesmium fix atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia and are an important source of new nitrogen of the ocean. Here a large number of heterotrophic bacteria are seen to be localized around the filament, suggesting they metabolize organic matter released by the cyanobacterium. (Photo by Annette Hynes)
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    Oligosaccharides, low molecular weight polymers of simple sugars, fluoresce under ultraviolet light after separation by gel electrophoresis. Oligosaccharides are important components of the dissolved organic matter that sustains heterotophic microbial communities in seawater. (Photo by Dan Repeta)
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    John Waterbury of the WHOI Biology department examines cultures of the marine cyanobacteria Synechococcus. Synechcococcus is among the most abundant photautotrophs in the oceans, often dominating the microbial communities in oligotrophic, open ocean gyres. (Photo by Tom Kleindinst)
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    Colonies of marine heterotrophic bacteria isolated from the Ross Sea of Antarctica. These bacteria are adapted to survival at extremely cold seawater temperatures and are currently being studied for their identity and biogeochemical roles. (Photo by Whitney Krey)
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    MIT/WHOI Joint Program student Ann Thompson catches a squid during a during a break from sampling on a recent microbial biogeochemistry cruise to the Costa Rica Upwelling area. (Photo by Cedar McKay, University of Washington.)
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    Dr. Mak Saito, an Associate Scientist in the Department of Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry, prepares a trace metal clean Go-Flo bottle during a recent cruise to study trace metal cycling and microbial biogeochemistry in the Costa Rica Upwelling area. (Photo by Cedar McKay, Univ. of Washington)
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    Separation of photosynthetic pigments from a newly isolated strain of cyanobacteria. Green-pigmented chlorophylls partition into hexane (top layer) while yellow-pigmented carotenoids partition into methanol (bottom layer). (Photo by Dan Repeta)
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    WHOI Postdoctoral Investigator Mar Nieto-Cid, from Vigo, Spain adds seawater to an ultrafiltration system on a recent cruise to the NW Atlantic Ocean aboard the RV Oceanus. Ultrafiltration is used to concentrate dissolved organic matter for chemical and microbial analysis. (Photo by Alexander Dorsk)
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    Laboratory cultures of Botryococcus sp. incubated at different temperatures to measure changes in the isotopic fractionation between hydrogen and deuterium during growth. Hydrogen/deuterium ratios in fossilized algae is a useful indicator in the study of climate history. (Photo by Julian Sachs)

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Welcome to WHOI's Microbial Biogeochemistry Group

Life, in the form of singled-celled microorganisms, may well have evolved in marine hot springs nearly 3.7 billion years ago. These early microbes probably used a few, simple chemical compounds to drive their metabolic processes, but eventually evolved into a highly diverse group of organisms that inhabit environments at the extremes of temperature, pressure, and chemical conditions found on earth today. Over time microbial processes have shaped the earth’s biosphere profoundly altering the environment, laying the foundation of the biogeochemical cycles that drive climate, and establishing the conditions that allowed for the evolution of plants and animals.

Scientists in the microbial biogeochemistry group at WHOI are studying microbes and microbial processes in environments as different as boiling hot deep sea hydrothermal vents and subzero arctic permafrost. Our research draws from biology, chemistry, and geology to explore how microbial processes are altering today’s world, and to look into the past to the very origin of life in the sea. Each liter of seawater or sediment contains billions of living cells. Until recently it was impossible to even catalogue the diversity of microbes in any marine habitat, but new tools in genomic sequencing, molecular biology, and analytical chemistry are allowing us to study microbes in the environment as never before, and to appreciate how microbes drive many of the most important processes on the planet.

Last updated: August 12, 2008



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