Ocean experts gather at Bigelow Laboratory to scope out plans for marine plankton research

By Ramona du Houx - May 27th, 2014 

Fifty of the nation’s top ocean scientists will be at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay this week, May 28-May 30, to scope out a forward-looking research agenda that will integrate genetics, biology and geochemistry to improve our understanding of marine plankton responses, at the level of the individual cell or population of cells, to changing environmental conditions in the global ocean.

“Marine plankton really are the canary in the coal mine,” said Dr. Michael W. Lomas, a marine biogeochemist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and one of the workshop organizers. “They drive many biogeochemical processes in the ocean so it is vital that we understand everything about them — their genetic capacity, how they work, and how they have evolved — so that we might be able to understand how they might respond to changes within the marine environment.”

The scoping workshop is bringing together people with complementary interests in studying or modeling marine plankton to summarize the current state of knowledge at the single cell and taxa levels, identify what is known and unknown about each, and determine ways to fill the information gaps.

Workshop participants will strive to advance a research agenda that integrates data and knowledge from the cellular and population levels and apply these to marine ecosystems models to improve confidence in model outcomes of the marine plankton response to changing global ocean conditions.

Dr. Ramunas Stepanauskas, senior research scientist and director of the Single Cell Genomics Center, and Dr. Benjamin Twining, senior research scientist and director of research and education, at Bigelow Laboratory were also organizers of the “Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry Workshop. The National Science Foundation provided funding for the workshop.

Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences 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.