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Posted:
6/29/2015
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Scientists at the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography joined researchers around the globe in a worldwide Ocean Sampling Day on Sunday, June 21, the summer solstice.

This was the second year Skidaway researchers have participated in the Ocean Sampling Day event. The first was conducted last year, also on the summer solstice. The event focuses on simultaneous sampling of microbes in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes waters.

This year, 191 marine research locations—from the Rothera Research Station in Antarctica to Göteborg University in Sweden—participated. The sampling program supports international missions to provide information on the diversity of microbes, their function and their potential economic benefits.

“It’s a global effort to take a snapshot of microbes across the world’s oceans at the same time, on the same day, in this case, the summer solstice,” said Skidaway Institute professor Marc Frischer.

Frischer cited the significance of the project by describing microbes as the “engines of our planet” and said half the oxygen in the atmosphere is produced by microbes in the ocean.

Skidaway Institute scientists collected samples at two locations. One team collected and processed samples from the Skidaway River estuary immediately adjacent to the Skidaway Institute campus. That also served as part of an ongoing water-quality monitoring program Skidaway Institute has supported for more than 25 years. A second group teamed up with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary and collected samples from Gray’s Reef. The 14,000-acre marine sanctuary is located about 17 miles off the Sapelo Island coast.

“We helped Gray’s Reef by collecting and processing their samples in the way they needed to be done,” Frischer said. “You really need a laboratory for that, and we were able to provide that.”

One goal of the global project is to note the commonalities and the differences among the microbial communities around the globe. Some of those differences were seen just in the samples collected at Gray’s Reef and at the Skidaway campus, two sites only 40 miles apart.

“We generally observe a larger number of smaller organisms out in the ocean, which makes sense because they are adapting to a system with lower nutrients,” Frischer said. “We also saw a different kind of photosynthetic organisms since there is much more light available in the ocean compared to rather turbid waters in our estuary.”

Much of the fieldwork at both Skidaway Institute and Gray’s Reef was handled by undergraduate college students gaining research experience at Skidaway Institute this summer. These included students from UGA and Savannah State University’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program. 

All samples and data were sent to Bremen, Germany, for DNA extraction and sequencing to ensure maximum comparability. The resulting data will be made publicly available as soon as quality checks are finished. These cumulative samples, related in time, space and environmental parameters, will provide insights into fundamental rules describing microbial diversity and function and contribute to the blue, or oceanic, economy through the identification of novel, ocean-derived biotechnologies.

Ocean Sampling Day was jointly coordinated by Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany, and the University of Oxford in the U.K. and is part of the European Union-funded Ocean of Tomorrow research project Micro B3.

“It is really important to have a global perspective,” Frischer said. “We are glad we can participate in what they are now calling “gigascience” where we are collecting a snapshot from all over the world. It is amazing!”

Additional information on the global Ocean Sampling Day project is available at www.microb3.eu/osd.

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Posted:
6/16/2015
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

 Scientists at the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography will join researchers around the globe in a worldwide Ocean Sampling Day on Sunday, June 21, the summer solstice.

Kevin McKenzie and Tina Walters pull samples during Ocean Sampling Day 2014. 

This will be the second year Skidaway researchers have participated in the Ocean Sampling Day event. The first was conducted last year, also on the summer solstice. The event focuses on simultaneous sampling of microbes in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes waters.

This year, 191 marine research locations—from subtropical waters in Hawaii to extreme environments such as the Fram Strait in the Arctic Ocean—will participate. The sampling program will support international missions to provide information on the diversity of microbes, their function and their potential economic benefits.

Skidaway Institute scientists will take samples in two locations. One team will collect and process samples from the Skidaway River estuary immediately adjacent to the Skidaway Institute campus as part of an ongoing water-quality monitoring program Skidaway Institute has supported for more than 25 years. A second group will team up with scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary and collect samples from Gray’s Reef. The 14,000-acre marine sanctuary is located about 17 miles off the Sapelo Island coast.

Much of the fieldwork at both Skidaway Institute and Gray’s Reef will be handled by undergraduate college students gaining research experience at Skidaway Institute this summer. These will include students from UGA and Savannah State University’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program. 

All samples and data will be sent to Bremen, Germany, for DNA extraction and sequencing to ensure maximum comparability. The resulting data will be made publicly available as soon as quality checks are finished. These cumulative samples, related in time, space and environmental parameters, will provide insights into fundamental rules describing microbial diversity and function and contribute to the blue, or oceanic, economy through the identification of novel, ocean-derived biotechnologies.

Ocean Sampling Day is jointly coordinated by Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany, and the University of Oxford in the U.K. and is part of the European Union-funded Ocean of Tomorrow research project Micro B3.

Additional information on the global Ocean Sampling Day project is available at www.microb3.eu/osd

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Posted:
4/29/2015
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

In recent years, Georgia shrimpers have been very concerned about black gill, a mysterious condition affecting the coastal shrimp population, and one many shrimpers believe may be largely responsible for reduced shrimp harvests. University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography professor Marc Frischer is leading a research project involving scientists, regulators and shrimpers from three states in an effort to determine the cause, effects and possible solutions to the black gill problem. 

Frischer will discuss his ongoing research into black gill in shrimp in an Evening @ Skidaway program on Tuesday, May 12. The program will be in the McGowan Library at the UGA Skidaway Institute, beginning with a reception at 6:30 p.m. and followed by the lecture at 7:15 p.m.

An “Evening @ Skidaway” is sponsored by the UGA Skidaway Institute of Oceanography and the Associates of Skidaway Institute. The free program is open to the public.

For additional information, call 912-598-2325. 

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Posted:
4/23/2015
Author:
mikesullivan
Description:

Savannah, Ga. – While climatologists are carefully watching carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, another group of scientists is exploring a massive storehouse of carbon that has the potential to significantly affect the climate change picture.

University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography researcher Aron Stubbins is part of a team investigating how ancient carbon, locked away in Arctic permafrost for thousands of years, is now being transformed into carbon dioxide and released into the atmosphere. The results of the study were published in Geophysical Research Letters.

“However, if you allow your food to defrost, eventually bacteria will eat away at it, causing it to decompose and release carbon dioxide,” Stubbins said. “The same thing happens to permafrost when it thaws.”The Arctic contains a massive amount of carbon in the form of frozen soil—the remnants of plants and animals that died more than 20,000 years ago. Because this organic material was permanently frozen year-round, it did not undergo decomposition by bacteria the way organic material does in a warmer climate. Just like food in a home freezer, it has been locked away from the bacteria that would otherwise cause it to decay and be converted to carbon dioxide.

Scientists estimate there is more than 10 times the amount of carbon in the Arctic soil than has been put into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels since the start of the Industrial Revolution. To look at it another way, scientists estimate there is two and a half times more carbon locked away in the Arctic deep freezer than there is in the atmosphere today. Now, with a warming climate, that deep freezer is beginning to thaw and that long-frozen carbon is beginning to be released into the environment.

“The study we did was to look at what happens to that organic carbon when it is released,” Stubbins said. “Does it get converted to carbon dioxide or is it still going to be preserved in some other form?”

Stubbins and his colleagues conducted their fieldwork at Duvanni Yar in Siberia. There, the Kolyma River carves into a bank of permafrost, exposing the frozen organic material. This worked well for the scientists, as they were able to find streams that consisted of 100 percent thawed permafrost. The researchers measured the carbon concentration, how old the carbon was and what forms of carbon were present in the water. They bottled it with a sample of the local microbes. After two weeks, they measured the changes in the carbon concentration and composition and the amount of carbon dioxide that had been produced.


The study also confirmed what the scientists had suspected: The carbon being used by the bacteria is at least 20,000 years old. This is significant because it means that carbon has not been a part of the global carbon cycle in the recent past. 
Lead author Robert Spencer of Florida State University added, “Interestingly, we also found that the unique composition of thawed permafrost carbon is what makes the material so attractive to microbes.”“We found that decomposition converted 60 percent of the carbon in the thawed permafrost to carbon dioxide in two weeks,” Stubbins said. “This shows the permafrost carbon is definitely in a form that can be used by the microbes.”

“If you cut down a tree and burn it, you are simply returning the carbon in that tree to the atmosphere where the tree originally got it,” Stubbins said. “However, this is carbon that has been locked away in a deep-freeze storage for a long time. 

“This is carbon that has been out of the active, natural system for tens of thousands of years. To reintroduce it into the contemporary system will have an effect.”

The carbon release has the potential to create what scientists call a positive feedback loop. This means as more carbon is released into the atmosphere, it would amplify climate warming. That, in turn, would cause more permafrost to thaw and release more carbon, causing the cycle to continue. 

“Currently, this is not a process that shows up in future (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) climate projections; in fact, permafrost is not even accounted for,” Spencer said.

“Moving forward, we need to find out how consistent our findings are and to work with a broader range of scientists to better predict how fast this process will happen,” Stubbins said.

In addition to Stubbins and Spencer, the research team included Paul Mann from Northumbria University, United Kingdom; Thorsten Dittmar from the University of Oldenburg, Germany; Timothy Eglinton and Cameron McIntyre from the Geological Institute, Zurich, Switzerland; Max Holmes from Woods Hole Research Center; and Nikita Zimov from the Far-Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Science. 

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Publications
Bittar, T. B., A. Stubbins, A. A. H. Vieira, and K. Mopper. 2015. Characterization and photodegradation of dissolved organic matter (DOM) from a tropical lake and its dominant primary producer, the cyanobacteria Microcystis aeruginosa. Marine Chemistry (pagination pending) doi:10.1016/j.marchem.2015.06.016
Stubbins, A., and T. Dittmar. 2015. Illuminating the deep: Molecular signatures of photochemical alteration of dissolved organic matter from North Atlantic Deep Water. Marine Chemistry (pagination pending) doi: 10.1016/j.marchem.2015.06.020
Rachal, D. M., G. S. Okin, C. R. Alexander, J. E. Herrick, and D. P. C. Peters. 2015. Modifying landscape connectivity by reducing wind driven sediment redistribution, Northern Chihuahuan Desert, USA. Aeolian Research 17:129-137.
Gwiazda, R., C. K. Paull, W. Ussler III, and C. R. Alexander. 2015. Evidence of modern fine-grained sediment accumulation in the Monterey Fan from measurements of the pesticide DDT and its metabolites. Marine Geology 363:125-133. doi: 10.1016/j.margeo.2015.02.006
Hauer, M. E., J. M. Evans, and C. R. Alexander. 2015. Sea-level rise and sub-county population projections in coastal Georgia. Population and Environment. doi: 10.1007/s11111-015-0233-8
 
 
 
 
 
 
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