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  • 27 Bigelow Laboratory students and scientists to present research at the Ocean Sciences meeting in New Orleans

    The East Boothbay campus of Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences will be quiet the week of February 21st as nearly half of its scientists travel to New Orleans to share their research findings with international colleagues at the 2016 Ocean Sciences Meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana next week.  Included in the entourage will be 11 college students who will present research findings from this past summer working under the mentorship of Bigelow Laboratory scientists.  The February 21-26 meeting, co-sponsored by the American Geophysical Union (AGU), Association of Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO), and The Oceanography Society (TOS) is expected to attract thousands of scientists from around the globe.

    “This meeting serves as a global platform for the world’s experts to share information, data, and new insights that participants take home and incorporate into their own research,” said Dr. David Fields, who leads the undergraduate research program at Bigelow Laboratory. “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 among leaders in ocean science research. It will be an amazing experience for them.”

    The 11 students—Francisco Spaulding Astudillo, Emma Cold, Evangeline Fachon, Andrew Goode, Jeremiah Ets-Hokin, Alicia Hoeglund, Devan Khana, Emily Lyczkowski, Julia Maine, Halley McVeigh, and Jes Waller—will be accompanied by their Bigelow Laboratory mentors.  In addition to Fields, Research Scientists Christoph Aeppli, William Balch, Pete Countway, Mike Lomas, Patricia Matrai, Nicole Poulton, Ramunas Stepanauskas, and Benjamin Twining will be attending the meeting. Postdoctoral Researchers Steven Baer, Jason Hopkins, Younjoo Lee, Daniel Ohnemus, Kerstin Suffrian, LeAnn Whitney, and Meredith White also will be presenting.  Research technician Laura Lubelczyk rounds 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 what is happening in the global ocean,” said Matrai, who also served as ASLO treasurer. “It offers scientists an opportunity to share what they are learning, discuss new findings, and collectively get a better handle on the state of the ocean

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

    Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, an independent not-for-profit research institution on the coast of Maine, conducts research ranging from microbial oceanography to large-scale ocean processes that affect the global environment. Recognized as a leader in Maine’s emerging innovation economy, the Laboratory’s research, education, and enterprise programs are spurring significant economic growth in the state.

  • Bigelow Laboratory awarded $3.1 million for student and visiting scientist residence

    By Ramona du Houx

    Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, an independent not-for-profit research institution on the coast of Maine, conducts cutting-edge research ranging from microbial oceanography to large-scale ocean processes that affect the global environment. The laboratory’s research, education, and enterprise programs are spurring significant economic growth in the state.

    As a leader in innovation people come from all over the world to connect with the laboratory. Bigelow's educational programs serve high school students from every county in Maine, undergraduate students from across the U.S., professional short course attendees, and visiting scientists from around the globe. With Bigelow's programs growing there became a need for more housing. 

    That's why on January 5, 2016, the Harold Alfond Foundation announced a $3.1 million award to Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences for construction of a 32-bed student and visiting scientist residence with four visitor’s apartments on the Laboratory’s East Boothbay Campus. 

    “We are both honored and delighted that the Harold Alfond Foundation has recognized the value of the Laboratory’s education programs by offering its generous support, making it possible for us to house students and visitors safely and comfortably on site while participating in our many educational and collaborative research programs,” said Graham Shimmield, executive director of Bigelow Laboratory. “It will allow us to expand our educational programs so more students and professionals have access to our world-class scientists.”

    An anonymous donor has matched the award, allowing the project to break ground in April 2016.  A separate endowment has been established to cover maintenance and operating costs of the new facility for 50 years.

    "This is exactly the type of project that the Harold Alfond Foundation likes to support," said Greg Powell, chairman of the Harold Alfond Foundation Board of Trustees. "Bigelow Laboratory's new residence met or exceeded all of our requirements.  The project is entrepreneurial in that it will allow the Laboratory to expand its educational offerings to not only students but to professionals, which, in turn, will help ensure economic growth for the Laboratory and the region. The project is rock solid financially and matched by a generous donor. Plus, it will be overseen by a great management team at Bigelow Laboratory, who have great vision and optimism for the state of Maine."

    The new 15,000 square-foot dormitory residence will overlook the Damariscotta River on the Laboratory’s East Boothbay campus and will be a short walk from the main Laboratory building and its shore facility. Energy efficiency, ease of maintenance, and respect for the surrounding environment embody the design.

    The ground floor will be below grade to accommodate the natural slope of the landscape, creating a courtyard surrounded by ledge or a “natural amphitheater” in the upper area. A partial green roof will help absorb rainwater, provide insulation, and help create an aesthetically pleasing natural look for the structure.

    A mixture of glass, natural wood, aluminum, and preformed concrete construction materials will promote longevity and easy maintenance, while allowing the building to blend into the wooded acreage of the waterfront site. A 75 kW array of photovoltaic cells will provide energy to meet all electric needs of the residence, including heating and ventilation. Windows, doors, and insulation will all be energy efficient and provide maximum R-value rating.

    “We are striving for a Net Zero Energy building,” added Shimmield. “Since inhabiting our energy-efficient laboratory space that opened in December 2012, we personally understand how efficient energy use and construction goes a long way toward making a building pleasant to be in, and we are sure the same will hold true for the students and guests in the new residence.” 

    The two-story structure will have 8 double bedrooms on each floor that can be flexibly arranged to accommodate guests numbering from 8 to 32. It also will provide a communal student kitchen and social area, adaptable meeting space that can serve dual functions as an auditorium or recreation area, and fitness and laundry areas.

    Two adjacent wings will contain three studio apartments with kitchen, bedroom, and bath to accommodate visiting scientists and other guests, and a two-bedroom apartment to house visitors with families.

    Scott Simons Architects of Portland, Maine designed the building. The Portland office of Consigli Construction Company, Inc. is providing construction management services.

     

  • Bigelow Laboratory's Dr. Aeppli to determine how oil spill remains six years after Deepwater Horizon

    Dr. Christoph Aeppli from Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences was awarded a grant to investigate the long-term fate and effects of petroleum released during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. For this project, which will last until the end of 2018, Aeppli teamed up with Ryan Rodgers of Florida State University and Chris Reddy of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. 

    “During oil weathering, petroleum hydrocarbons are transformed into novel compounds,” said Dr. Aeppli, Bigelow Laboratory senior research scientist.  “Not much is currently know about these oil transformation products, but there are indications that they potentially have toxic effects."

    The three researchers will determine how the oil spilled from the Macondo Well weathered in the environment by using cutting-edge analytical methods. Specifically, they will investigate, how the chemical composition of oil has been altered in the environment over the past six years, and how marine organisms may be affected by these changes. 

    “I’ll be assessing how oil weathering changes its toxicity so that we can better understand how the oil spill affected the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. This work will help predict the fate and effect of oil, which will help inform and improve cleanup efforts in future spills,” Aeppli added.

    This award was one of 22 research projects funded for the 2016 – 2018 period by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative to individuals and teams studying the effects of oil on the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and public health. A total of $38 million was awarded to researchers to be spent over the next three years. For his part, Aeppli will receive $600,000 over three years to conduct his research.

     “The Research Board was impressed with the quality of the 288 applications received,” said Dr. Rita Colwell, Chairman of the GoMRI Research Board. “As is our practice, all proposals underwent a rigorous merit review process like that used by the National Science Foundation. This process has served us well, as demonstrated by the impressive array of research findings published in scientific journals by those researchers GoMRI has already funded. We are gaining an important understanding of how the Gulf of Mexico functions as an ecosystem and responds to large-scale environmental stresses like that caused by the tragic Macondo wellhead blowout.”

    The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative is an independent, 10-year research program established with a $500 million commitment from BP following the Deepwater Horizon incident. Twenty experts comprise a Research Board responsible for designing research programs, making funding decisions, and providing research and budget oversight.

    Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, an independent not-for-profit research institution on the coast of Maine, conducts research ranging from microbial oceanography to large-scale ocean processes that affect the global environment. Recognized as a leader in Maine’s emerging innovation economy, the Laboratory’s research, education, and enterprise programs are spurring significant economic growth in the state.

  • Colby and Bigelow Laboratory combine art and science in exhibit

    A novel art, science, and educational collaboration is underway between Colby College and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences. Six different professors in disciplines ranging from biology to the art and humanities have integrated a photographic exhibit of marine microbes, created by Bigelow Laboratory, into their curriculum this fall.

    The exhibit is on display at Colby College through December 11, and culminates in a presentation of student-inspired work that evening at 5 pm in the Wormser Room at the college.
    Among the offerings, the event is scheduled to feature a microbe-inspired dance, microbial marble sculptures, scientific discussion about the relevance of marine microbes to planetary balance, and instant DNA technology.
  • Marine Microbiology Initiative awards grants to 100 scientists -Bigelow Laboratory gets $150,000

    Dinoflagellates are single-celled marine organisms that use two (dino) whip-like organs called flagella (flagellates) to propel themselves in water. (stock photo)

    Bigelow Laboratory is part of international effort to develop ways to model marine microbial ecology to increase understanding and predictability of ocean systems

    By Ramona du Houx

      Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences Senior Research Scientist José Antonio Fernández Robledo will spend the next year developing molecular tools to manipulate dinoflagellates to better understand their function and how they might transform themselves under varying conditions.

      Dinoflagellates are single-celled marine organisms that use two (dino) whip-like organs called flagella (flagellates) to propel themselves in water. They are distributed throughout the global ocean and are the first link in the aquatic food chain--the initial transfer of light energy to chemical energy (photosynthesis). Almost all other organisms are dependent upon this energy transfer for their subsequent existence.

      This work, being done in collaboration with Dr. Claudio H. Slamovits at Dalhousie University in Halifax Nova Scotia, is part of an $8 million Marine Microbial Initiative launched by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

      The Initiative will occur over the next two years supporting the efforts of more than 100 scientists across 33 institutions to collectively tackle the challenge of developing methods to bring experimental model systems to the ocean.

       Bigelow Laboratory was awarded $150,000 in funding.                     

      The genetic tools generatedin this effort will allow researchers to investigate the activities of microbial genes to understand how these organisms function in marine ecosystems and provide the capability to ask scientific questions inways not currently possible.

      Model systems, such as the mammalian gut bacterium Escherichia coli for microbiology and the fruit fly and zebra fish for biomedicine, have been invaluable for deciphering complex biology. For example, by studying fruit flies, scientists gain insight into the inheritance of human traits such as eye color. But in the world of marine microbial ecology, there are very few model systems and associated tools that enable scientists to deeply explore the physiology, biochemistry, and ecology of marine microbes, which are key drivers of the ocean’s elemental cycles, influence greenhouse gas levels, and support marine food webs.

      Ginger Armbrust, Ph.D., from the University of Washington explained that an important outcome would be to “expand the community of people that are working on these organisms and making big breakthroughs into how these organisms function.” She added, “New model systems will be a magnet for people from outside the field of marine microbial ecology as they will suddenly be able to work with marine microbes in ways that they are used to working with other model organisms.

    “It is great to be part of this international effort to advance understanding of the marine microbial community and how it might respond to change,” said Bigelow Laboratory scientist Fernández Robledo. Bigelow photo

      Currently, researchers have access to powerful tools in biology to help them understand the ocean, such as microscopy and DNA sequencing, but are lacking essential tools in genetics to make robust experimental model systems. Without these tools, scientists are less able to link specific genes to cell behavior or determine how microbes interact within their environment and with one another – critical information for understanding how ocean ecosystems function.

      “It is great to be part of this international effort to advance understanding of the marine microbial community and how it might respond to change,” said Bigelow Laboratory scientist Fernández Robledo. “The support from the Moore Foundation will allow us to jump start our genetic capabilities here and help contribute to global ocean understanding.”

      Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, an independent not-for-profit research institution on the coast of Maine, conducts research ranging from microbial oceanography to large-scale ocean processes that affect the global environment. Recognized as a leader in Maine’s emerging innovation economy, the Laboratory’s research, education, and technology transfer programs are spurring significant economic growth in the state.

  • Bigelow Laboratory and Colby College collaborate with Tiny Giants exhibit

    Marine microbes produce half the oxygen we breathe. They are the base of the food chain, and without them the food source for billions of people would be threatened. Microbes also offer the potential for discoveries of new pharmaceuticals, nutritional supplements and fuel sources and the potential to mitigate the effects of climate change.

    They also are stunningly beautiful.

    The invisible world of marine microbes will be revealed through a photographic art exhibit at Colby College throughout the fall semester from Sept. 17-Dec. 17.

    Eighteen large images (up to five feet by four feet) make the invisible microscopic marine organisms visible, helping to tell the stories of the critical roles these tiny creatures play in planetary health and balance.

    “Our idea behind the Tiny Giants images was to pique people’s imaginations about the invisible creatures that we study that are vital to our very existence,” said Dr. Benjamin Twining, director of research and education at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, where the exhibit was created. “Their visual depiction provides the opportunity for people to also learn about marine microbes. We are delighted that Colby College decided to take this a step further and explore microbes from a variety of vantage points, from using them as a muse for sculptural inspiration to examining how microbial knowledge might be used to help guide policy positions.”

    Colby professors in biology, environmental science, the humanities, art, theater and dance will use the exhibit as a launching point in their fall courses as they integrate the concept of invisible marine microbes into their respective disciplines.

    “We’re excited to show the images in the Tiny Giants exhibition on campus this fall” said Colby Provost and Dean of Faculty Lori G. Kletzer. “Colby’s strategic partnership with Bigelow Laboratory provides world-class opportunities in marine science and climate science for our students—we knew that. And now the unique aesthetic for examining the natural microbial world through these photos completely reinforces the interdisciplinary approach that both our institutions value so highly.”

    The Tiny Giants exhibit will formally opened with a reception in Miller Library on Colby’s campus on Thursday, Sept. 17th.

    Photographs will be on view at three campus locations through Dec. 17: at the Miller Library, Olin Science Library and the Davis Curricular Gallery in the Colby College Museum of Art.

    Participating Colby faculty members who will incorporate Tiny Giants into semester activities include the Julian D. Taylor Associate Professor of Classics and Director of Colby’s Center for the Arts and Humanities Kerill O’Neill, Professor of Science, Technology, and Society James R. Fleming, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Denise A. Bruesewitz, Assistant Professor of Art Bradley A. Borthwick, Associate Professor of Art Tanya R. Sheehan, Associate Professor of Biology Catherine R. Bevier, and Technical Director in Theater and Dance John E. Ervin.

    The art and science educational collaboration will conclude with an event in early December that will showcase students’ work inspired by Tiny Giants.

    The exhibit is free and open to the public during library hours and when the museum is open, and it offers an unprecedented opportunity to see the invisible—and the beauty and wonder of these diminutive creatures that play such an important role in keeping the planet balanced. The photos represent the technological and scientific achievement of capturing microscopic marine microbes that are invisible to the naked eye. Scientists at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences took the photographs at three different scales, using three different types of microscopes.

    Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, an independent not-for-profit research institution on the coast of Maine, conducts research ranging from microbial oceanography to large-scale ocean processes that affect the global environment. Recognized as a leader in Maine’s emerging innovation economy, the Laboratory’s research, education, and technology transfer programs are spurring significant economic growth in the state.

  • Bigelow Laboratory scientists discover virtually unknown role of iron oxidizing bacteria in tundra with implications for climate change

    Summer research assistant Frances Iannucci takes measurements and prepares to collect samples. The mineral soils are underlain by permafrost constraining the movement of surface water that creates conditions ideal for the oxidation and reduction of iron.    Photo: Joshua Benes, University of Vermont

    Iron may play a much larger role in the biogeochemistry of the Arctic tundra than previously thought, with the potential to impact ongoing climate change. 

    Bigelow Laboratory scientists were the first to discover and report on microbial iron oxidation in the tundra and how iron-oxidizing bacteria may impact the Arctic’s response to rising temperatures. Their findings were published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

    “We discovered iron-oxidizing bacteria are common in tundra wetlands and produce copious amounts of biogenic iron oxides ... The Arctic tundra has the potential to be heavily affected by changes in climate associated with increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations and global warming,” explained Dave Emerson, lead author of the study and senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory. “Its permanently frozen soils – or permafrost – hold an enormous amount of organic carbon, which when released could increase greenhouse gases, including methane. An active, microbially-mediated iron cycle could serve to keep a check on methane emissions.”

     Researchers conducted their investigation on the North Slope of Alaska, near Toolik Field Station at Toolik Lake, where they sampled ten sites, nine of which contained microbial iron mats, some of these covered hundreds of square meters. In addition to possibly suppressing methane production, the presence of iron oxides may also play an important role in the phosphorus cycle.

    "These oxides are easily reduced by an anaerobic, iron-reducing bacteria that live deeper in the tundra soils. Microbial iron-reduction will outcompete the process of methanogenesis carried out by a different group of microbes responsible for methane production. The net affect would be to suppress methane production. The reduced iron that comes from iron-reduction will keep feeding iron-oxidizing bacteria. Because the permafrost layer in the tundra is often only a few tens of centimeters below the soil surface, this process limits the downward flow of anoxic iron-rich waters, and keeps everything close to the surface. This intensifies the iron cycle," said Emerson.

    Phosphorus is often an important controlling nutrient in tundra ecosystems that limits overall primary productivity and fixation of carbon dioxide. Phosphorus binds strongly to the iron oxides produced by the bacteria, and it is not known how may control its availability to plants and other microbes.

    Since this was the first discovery of iron-oxidizing bacteria in the tundra, more investigation is needed to ferret out their numbers, location, and to better determine their role in maintaining the delicate planetary balance.

    In addition to Emerson, other co-authors of the paper are: Jarrod Scott, also a Bigelow Laboratory scientist, and Joshua Benes and William B. Bowden, from the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont.

    The full paper can be read here: http://aem.asm.org/content/81/23/8066.full.pdf+html.

    Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, an independent not-for-profit research institution on the coast of Maine, conducts research ranging from microbial oceanography to large-scale ocean processes that affect the global environment. Recognized as a leader in Maine’s emerging innovation economy, the Laboratory’s research, education, and technology transfer programs are spurring significant economic growth in the state.

  • Scientists from Maine's Bigelow labs used single cell genomics to identify frozen bacteria

    Bigelow Laboratory of Maine's incoming postdoctoral researcher Stephanie A. Carr and Dr. Beth Orcutt used single cell genomics to identify an Atribacteria (uncultivated bacteria that live without oxygen) cell from frozen Antarctic deep subsurface sediment. Reported in Frontiers in Microbiology, this demonstrates the huge potential for single cell techniques to be used to help unlock a massive amount of genomic information stored in previously collected frozen sediment cores.

    The sampled sediment was collected from the Adélie Basin, Antarctica, from 97.4 meters below sea floor during Expedition 318 of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. Originally, the sediment sample was frozen for DNA analyses, which is less than ideal for single cell sorting techniques.

    Given the amount of existing frozen sediments that have been collected for biological studies throughout the history of ocean drilling programs, the successful isolation of an Atribacteria cell from frozen sediment demonstrates how single cell techniques can potentially unlock genomic information from a huge reservoir of already collected, frozen sediments.

    This finding was also the first report of a single cell Atribacteria genome from marine sediment and highlights the potential role of Atribacteria in carbon cycling in the deep biosphere.  In non-marine Atribacteria, a partial single cell genome suggests that Atribacteria use carbon to grow and produce waste products such as acetate, ethanol, and carbon dioxide. These products may support methane-producing bacteria and help explain the frequent occurrence of Atribacteria in anoxic methane-rich sediments.