BIOS-SCOPE II - A collaborative program for the study of Microbial Oceanography in the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre

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Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences
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Project Summary: BIOS-SCOPE is a cross disciplinary program in microbial oceanography

with a primary focus on the interactions between microbial processes and DOM

concentration and composition. The overarching goal of the BIOS-SCOPE is to form and

foster collaborations of cross disciplinary science that utilizes a broad suite of genomic,

ecological, oceanographic and biogeochemical approaches to evaluate microbial process,

structure and function on various scales. Of particular interest to the BIOS-SCOPE team is

better understanding the sources, sinks and transformation of dissolved organic matter

(DOM) and the interaction between complex DOM substrates and how they are

incorporated, oxidized and transformed by distinct microbial communities at the Bermuda

Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS) site.

The BATS site ideally suits the BIOS-SCOPE vision of understanding carbon cycle

transitions by applying time-series statistical methods to biological and chemical data, and

applying insights gained from metagenomics and plankton cell biology to discover new

carbon cycle transformations. DOM biogeochemistry, and its interactions with microbial

processes and bacterioplankton phylogenetic diversity, have been studied more intensively

and for a longer period (> two decades), than at any other ocean site. At BATS and

elsewhere theories have emerged to explain patterns of DOM oxidation. Rapidly expanding

genomic data have shown that planktonic ecosystems are intensely competitive, and that

that generalist DOM oxidizers (heterotrophic bacterioplankton) don’t fair well in this

competition. Theory supported by sparse examples explains patterns in DOM distributions

as a consequence of the costs and benefits of specialized metabolism for the harvesting of

DOM resources by oxidative cells. DOM may accumulate not because it is intrinsically

resistant to biological uptake and oxidation, but because the "economics" of oxidizing the

compound vary depending on the depth, season, and the availability of growth factors.

Consequently, DOM quantity as well as its source, distribution and compositional nature are

intricately related to the bacterioplankton communities that stratify along gradients of energy

and nutrient availability.

These theories are being tested on a technically challenging scientific frontier that merges

advances in measuring DOM chemistry and genome analysis with cell biology and field

campaigns. The aim of BIOS-SCOPE is to expand knowledge about the BATS ecosystem

and gather the new forms of data that are needed to test these ideas. For this purpose we

have assembled a cross-disciplinary team including a microbial oceanographer (Carlson-

UCSB), a chemist (Kujawinski- WHOI), microbiologist (Giovannoni- OSU), zooplankton

ecologists (Maas and Blanco-Bercial- BIOS) and bioinformatician (Temperton- Exeter

University) with the expertise and technical acuity that are needed to study complex

interactions between food web processes, microbes and DOM quantity and quality in the

oligotrophic ocean.