Microbes; Small but Mighty
Hello from beautiful New Zealand! We are currently days away from embarking the RVIB Nathaniel B. Palmer and are anxiously awaiting to sail to Eastern Antarctica. Before we set sail, I would like to introduce the work we will accomplish and the four scientists representing Dr. Deric Learman’s and Dr. Drew Steen’s team.
On this cruise, we will collect benthic sediments from the continental shelf in Eastern Antarctica using a Mega Corer. Our aim is to use these sediments to bring insight into how microbes are degrading organic matter and what processes are driving complex organic matter degradation. To accomplish this goal, we will be using metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, and extracellular enzyme assays. Together these data will be utilized to clarify how microbial communities degrade complex organic matter by painting a picture of how genetic potential (metagenomics) relates to gene function (metatranscriptomics) and expression (extracellular enzyme assays), to understand the fate of organic matter.
The Learman lab was able to collect Antarctic benthic sediments on previous research cruises from the Ross Sea, the Western Antarctic Peninsula, and the Weddell Sea. Previous work in the Learman lab determined that microbial diversity is governed by organic matter quantity and quality. We will use metagenomic/transcriptomic data from these previous collected samples to compare to samples collected in Eastern Antarctica.
My name is Katie Howland. I am a 2nd year Ph.D. student working with Dr. Deric Learman. I study environmental microbiology at Central Michigan University (CMU). My work focuses on using bioinformatics, shotgun metagenomics, and metatranscriptomics to relate gene potential to function in Antarctic sediments. This work will help elucidate how microbes in benthic sediments degrade complex organic matter, a process with implication to both benthic and pelagic organisms. My role on this cruise is to collect sediments that will further our understanding on how complex organic matter is degraded.
Jacob Perez is a 3rd year geology Ph.D. student working with Dr. Drew Steen at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. His research primarily looks at enzyme-mineral interactions in Arctic permafrost soils using metagenomic techniques and molecular dynamics simulations. By studying the mechanisms behind the sorption of extracellular enzymes to mineral surfaces, he aims to provide insight into geochemical controls on carbon fluxes in the Arctic. He is joining this cruise to help with the geochemical modeling and measure the metabolic fluxes within the marine sediments.
Hannah Nygaard is a 1st year M.S. student working with Dr. Deric Learman at CMU. Using sediment samples collected from the previous 2020 research cruise, Hannah is employing shotgun metagenomics to examine what metabolic pathways microbes utilize to make energy as sediment depth increases. Hannah is joining this cruise to aid in all factors of sample collection and processing.
Sophie Flaherty is an undergraduate researcher from CMU working with Dr. Deric Learman on this cruise. Sophie will graduate from CMU while we are enroute to port in Cape Town, South Africa. Sophie will be continuing her microbiology research in graduate school. Sophie is joining this cruise to help in all aspects of sample collection and processing.
Central Michigan University
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