Tiny marine organisms that play key roles in global carbon and nutrient cycling will be better understood thanks to new genetic tools being developed at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory through a new grant.
PNNL is among 33 institutions being awarded a total of $8 million from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation‘s Marine Microbiology Initiative. PNNL microbiologist George Bonheyo is receiving about $170,000 through the initiative and will use the funding to hire and support a post-doctoral researcher from Washington State University at PNNL’s Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sequim, Washington.
The post-doc, Bonheyo and his colleagues will create new genetic tools to disrupt microbial gene activity, which will enable them to understand how tiny organisms called microeukaryotes function in marine ecosystems. These organisms are central to many global cycles and, if such cycles are imbalanced, they could have major implications for ocean acidification, food webs and climate change.
“Scientist who want to study carbon and nutrient cycling need tools to turn genes on or off in key species during laboratory studies,” said Bonheyo, who also holds a joint appointment with Washington State University. “However, systems for genetic manipulation have not been worked out for most microscopic organisms, particularly in the marine environment.”