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Images: New Device Reveals What Ocean Microbes Do

WHOI scientist Benjamin Van Mooy and colleagues have developed a scientific instrument to make critical ocean measurements much more easily: the rates of photosynthesis and respiration by marine microbes. The measurements are key to understanding the complex biochemical processes that underlie ocean ecosystems. The scientists named the instrument after a primordial sea god in Greek mythology, Phorcys, depicted in this mosaic with a fish tail, red skin, and crab-like claws. The scientists use PHORCYS as an acronym for PHOtosynthesis, Respiration, and Carbon balance Yielding System. (Dennis Jarvis - Flickr: Tunisia-4751)

Deploying the new PHORCYS instrument, Bosun Peter Liarikos signals to the winch operator on R/V Knorr as MIT-WHOI doctoral candidate Jamie Collins watches. The instrument, developed by WHOI scientist Ben Van Mooy and University of Washington scientist Richard Keil, measures how much oxygen ocean microbes produce and consume, allowing scientists to better understand how the ocean carbon cycle functions in a changing climate.

(Photo courtesy of Benjamin Van Mooy, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)
MIT-WHOI Joint Program graduate student Jamie Collins worked with WHOI scientist Benjamin Van Mooy and engineer Paul Fucile on the PHORCYS device, seen here during tests in Clayoquot Sound, British Columbia. Developed by Van Mooy and colleagues, PHORCYS measures the photosynthesis and respiration of microbes in water samples in near-real time and transmits the data to researchers. (Photo courtesy of Benjamin Van Mooy, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.)
A schematic diagram of the proof-of-concept PHORCYS instrument. (Courtesy of Benjamin Van Mooy, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.)
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