The deep-sea is the largest environment on the planet, provides many services to society, and yet much of its function remains largely unknown. As part of this labs research, we aim to understand the mechanisms by which this vast ecosystem functions, often connecting what happens on micron scales to the globe as a whole.
Methane is a greenhouse gas 25x stronger than CO2 at warming our the atmosphere and yet the vast majority of marine sources of methane is consumed prior to its release into the atmosphere. This means that even though the marine reservoirs of methane are mind-bogglingly vast, they contribute only a very small portion (between 3 and 6 %) of the greenhouse gas forcing that our globe experiences. Much of this can be blamed on the two biological lines of defense: the sediment-dwelling archaea and bacteria and the water column bacteria that consume this methane prior to its release into the atmosphere. One aspect of my research is to identify how the different microbial groups that consume this methane are intern impacted by animal grazers that use these microscopic life forms as their main food sources.
A Global Perspective
While research often takes place on small scales, even trying to understand what is going on at a sub-micron scale, the implications can be vast. This is especially true for the deep sea, where vast areas have processes that, over centuries, create an incredibly important environment. Sinking particles are broken down by microbes and release nutrients that eventually fuel vast fisheries. And so in addition to mechanistic studies at all ocean depths, a focus of the lab is synthesizing research from around the world and facilitating collaboration to gain a holistic understanding of the deep sea and its role to society.
The Blue Economy of Seeps
We have recently embarked upon aiming to better understand the potential futures that methane seeps may offer for society. Read more about it, and our recent cruise here: Blue Economy of Seeps