Breaking open the microbial black-box to improve our understanding of biogeochemical cycling
Marine microbes are the engines that drive the cycling of carbon and nutrients in the oceans and are responsible for approximately half of all global photosynthesis. I seek to understand the mechanisms through which climate variability influences microbial systems and to identify how microbial systems in turn impact climate (ecosystem-to-climate feedback loops). My research group is developing innovative, interdisciplinary numerical models that provide new insight into how dynamics occurring at the scale of individual microbes impact large-scale ecosystem processes such as rates of global carbon cycling. By moving away from ‘black-box’ representations of heterotrophic microbes to a more mechanistic representation of microbial ecology, we generate specific hypotheses as to how microbial organic matter consumption should vary temporally and spatially as a function of microbial populations. Such innovative models also allow for better integration between modeling efforts and state-of-the-art observational and experimental datasets of microbial population dynamics (e.g., omics datasets).
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