The Department of Molecular Ecology headed by Rudolf Amann analyzes the diversity, composition, and function of marine microbial communities. We are fascinated by the microbial catalysis of major biogeochemical element cycles which we are studying from coastal sand flats to the open ocean, and from photic surface waters all the way down to hot vents and cold seeps at the sea floor.
Long before plants and animals had evolved, single celled microorganisms have shaped Earth and ever since they remained essential for the habitability of our blue planet. Nucleic acid-based technologies opened a window to discover the full diversity of marine microorganisms. Whereas only thousands of species of Bacteria and Archaea have been described by cultivation-based methods, we are identifying millions by molecular fingerprinting. Today high throughput sequencing is providing ample data on species richness and evenness, yet quantification of the individual species remains difficult. Here we apply fluorescence in situ hybridization for the microscopic identification of single microbial cells and their localization in the environment. Comparative genome analysis and assays tracing the uptake of substrates by single cells allow us to deduce the physiological role and biochemical potential of not yet cultivated Bacteria and Archaea. Our ultimate goal is to proceed beyond quantitative descriptions of microbial communities. We predict the niche and recurrence of marine microbes, and test these hypotheses in the environment by assigning functions to taxonomic clades.
The Microbial Genomics and Bioinformatics Research Group developes enabling technologies to investigate the genetic potential of marine bacteria and their mechanisms coded in the genome to adapt to changing environmental conditions.
Flow cytometry complements the molecular biological toolbox to study microorganisms. Its capacity of fast analysis of thousands of cells per second and the simultaneous recording of multiple parameters makes flow cytometry a standard tool in plankton research. In addition flow cytometric cell sorting enables the physical separation and enrichment of well-defined cell populations without prior cultivation.
In our group we continuously improve our methods and combine them with new molecular biological approaches to gain further insights into the ecological role of microbes in a range of diverse marine habitats.
"Congratulations to Burak Avci on the successful defense of his doctoral dissertation" [24.09.18]
Last updated January 16th, 2019