Aquatic ecology

Event Date: 
Wednesday, September 30, 2015 - 18:15 - 18:30
Institution: 
UTS
Title: 

Divergence in temperature stress management between coastal and East Australian current (EAC) phytoplankton populations.

Abstract: 

In June 2015, 27 scientists took part in a 3 week ocean voyage aboard the brand new Australian research vessel, the RV Investigator. The main objective of the expedition was to study sub-mesoscale processes - billows and eddies - along the productive shelf influenced by the East Australian Current. Dr Olivier Laczka is presenting the results obtained for one of the multiple projects conducted during this voyage. Microbial communities from the EAC and a coastal site (north of Smokey Cape) were incubated along a temperature gradient (spanning 32 to 15.5 °C) to examine their capacity to deal with departures from in situ temperature (~22 °C). Intracellular stress within picoeukaryote populations was examined using a fluorescent stain targeting Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS). Stained samples were examined with a flow cytometer (excitation wavelength 488 nm). The goal of this study was to assess whether EAC microbial communities are more thermally tolerant than coastal microbial communities and determine whether general oxidative stress patterns could be used as a signature of water mass origins.

Event Date: 
Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 17:00 - 17:30
Institution: 
University of Southern Maine
Title: 

Prochlorococcus: the “invisible forest” in the ocean’s Outback.

Abstract: 

The smallest, most abundant phototroph in the world, Prochlorococcus, dominates the base of the food web in the “Outback” of the world’s oceans, the nutrient-depleted ocean gyres. This unicellular, marine cyanobacterium, unknown only 30 years ago, is an oligotrophic specialist with a streamlined genome and reduced cellular requirement for the limited resources available in this environment. Based on physiological and molecular analyses of isolated strains from different oceans and depths, two broad groupings of Prochlorococcus were characterized: high- and low-light adapted “ecotypes”. Within these broad groupings are many subclades, some of which have been shown to dominate under certain temperature and light conditions. Through additional culture-based studies, my lab has been exploring nutrient physiology and other physiological characteristics that may contribute to the ecology and evolution of other Prochlorococcus subgroups. Some subgroups have the capacity to utilize nitrate, which was not the case for the initial isolates of Prochlorococcus, and others differ in their pigmentation. We have also found that Prochlorococcus regulates its uptake velocity and specific affinity for inorganic and organic phosphorus under P stress conditions. Examining the physiology, ecology and genomics of Prochlorococcus isolates and natural populations is providing insights into how these tiny photosynthesizing cells create a stable, yet invisible forest in the deserts of the world’s oceans.

Event Date: 
Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 15:30 - 16:00
Institution: 
University of California Davis
Title: 

Stress, function and community dynamics in wastewater bioreactors

Abstract: 

Biological wastewater treatment plants receive a complex mixture of chemicals and are operated based on principles of general microbial growth kinetics. Regulated effluent criteria determine the extent of treatment required to achieve removal of chemical oxygen demand and nutrients like reduced nitrogen and phophate. Plants are, however, not designed to metabolize specific (micro)pollutants, and the factors influencing the emergence of microbial communities that are tolerant of or have evolved to metabolize and remove toxic compounds are poorly understood. Basic questions in wastewater engineering include ‘What affects the dynamics of wastewater microbial communities?’  and ‘Are communities ever stable and if so does this matter for basic processes like removal of organics and nutrients?’.  
We investigated the impact of defined and sustained chemical stress on wastewater microbial communities and their functions, using the highly toxic and recalcitrant compound 3-chloroaniline (3-CA) as model stressor. Experimental design included replicate bioreactors, sterile synthetic feed, ambient levels of 3-CA, and fixed factors like bioaugmentation and temperature. Process outcomes varied from no removal of 3-CA to complete removal within three weeks. Community changes were dramatic and nitrification was a key function affected by the stressor. Finally, microbial diversity indices based on 16S rRNA gene amplicon sequencing or T-RFLP, combined with influent nutrient concentrations, were used to predict effluent concentrations using support vector regression, a machine learning model. Sensitivity analysis of a preliminary dataset for a full-scale water reclamation plant would suggest that evenness is the most significant input variable for the prediction of soluble COD, nitrate and ammonium concentrations in the effluent. Overall, we show that both detailed analysis of taxonomy and gene expression and general indices of diversity are useful for understanding the link between stable process performance and microbial communities.

Event Date: 
Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 18:15 - 18:30
Institution: 
University of Technology Sydney
Title: 

The Sydney Harbour microbiome: bacterioplankton diversity and dynamics

Abstract: 

Sydney Harbour and its surrounding coast is an iconic habitat that supports a diverse ecosystem however the composition and dynamics of bacterioplankton in the system remain a major knowledge gap. The harbour and coast also provide a model system for investigating the spatiotemporal distribution of microorganisms across multiple physicochemical gradients and their response to anthropogenic input. Using next-generation DNA sequencing, we provide a comprehensive profile of microbial communities from a range of habitats inside the harbour and show strong biogeographic patterns in taxonomic composition.  Using network analysis to visualize correlations between community structure and environmental variables we have identified the key drivers of community partitioning. Combined these results lead to a more detailed understanding of the diversity and roles of bacterioplankton in Sydney Harbour and its surrounds, and provide insight into marine microbial ecology generally. 

Event Date: 
Wednesday, March 27, 2013 - 19:15 - 20:00
Institution: 
Alfred Wegener Instute for Polar and Marine Research
Title: 

Alexandrium: Evolutionary and ecological insights into the most prominent toxigenic dinoflagellate

Abstract: 

Dinoflagellates are a major cause of harmful algal blooms, with consequences for coastal marine ecosystem functioning and services.  Representatives of Alexandrium tamarense species complex are of the most abundant and widespread toxigenic species, and produces paralytic shellfish poisoning toxins as well as allelochemical substances.  This species complex consists of four to five species. The debate of the separation of this complex into real species in long on going and here a concept for the divorce of this group will be proposed.  Problems with identification of a toxic member of this species complex in November 2012, which led to the accidental export of toxic mussels to Japan, has now led to severe restrictions on Australian shellfish exports to Japan for a year, and resulting losses of many million $. Furthermore, population genetic insight and adaptive strategies in species interaction processes will be presented. Allelochemical mediated intra-population facilitation, may explain at least partly the high genotypic and phenotypic diversity of Alexandrium populations. Consequently, multiple traits within a population potentially allow mutual facilitation, and may promote the success of microbial planktonic populations.

Event Date: 
Wednesday, October 31, 2012 - 06:00 - 06:15
Institution: 
UTS
Title: 

Sulfur scent for a harmful algae killer

Abstract: 

 
Marine harmful algal blooms (HABs) are dense ephemeral proliferations typically of dinoflagellates, cyanobacteria or diatoms. These HABs can cause illness and death in humans and marine life, or ecosystem alterations affecting food provision and recreational activities. Despite being recognised as a major environmental challenge, little is known about what makes HABs thrive and vanish. For dinoflagellates, which account for 75% of HAB-forming phytoplankton species, bottom-up factors (including: eutrophication, climate change and species dispersal) are common triggers, yet the causes of bloom termination remain obscure.
Parasitoids have been identified as a major cause of termination of coastal harmful algal blooms, but the mechanisms and strategies they have evolved to efficiently infect ephemeral blooms are largely unknown. This study investigated the potential cues for parasite infection by the generalist dinoflagellate parasitoid Parvilucifera sinerae (Perkinsozoa, Alveolata). It showed that P. sinerae was activated from dormancy by Alexandrium minutum cells. Further investigation identified the algal metabolite dimethylsulphide (DMS) as the density-dependent chemical cue for the presence of potential host cells. The presence of DMS allowed the parasitoid to alternate between a sporangium-hosted dormant state and a chemically activated, free-living virulent state. DMS-rich exudates from infection-resistant dinoflagellate species also induced parasitoid activation, which can be interpreted as an example of a co-evolutionary arms race between parasitoid and host. These results further expand the involvement of dimethylated sulphur compounds in marine chemical ecology, where they have been described as foraging cues and chemoattractants for mammals, birds, fish, invertebrates and plankton microbes.

Event Date: 
Tuesday, July 24, 2012 - 19:00 - 20:00
Institution: 
MIT
Title: 

Relating the biogeography of nitrogen fixing phytoplankton and the nutrient environment in the ocean

Abstract: 

 

Nitrogen fixation may support as much as half of local productivity in some subtropical regions and is the major source of fixed nitrogen to the ocean, maintaining global productivity on long timescales. We use a combination of numerical models and ecological theory to interpret the relationship of nitrogen fixation and nutrient resources (fixed nitrogen, phosphorus and iron) in the global open ocean. We find that the ratio of the supply rates of iron and fixed nitrogen can accurately predict the biogeography of nitrogen fixers to the extent that it can be constrained by current observations.

Event Date: 
Wednesday, October 26, 2011 - 18:00 - 18:15
Institution: 
Macquarie University
Title: 

Marine Synechococcus: genomics, genetics and ecology of a ubiquitous primary producer

Abstract: 

Although life in the oceans presents some of the most amazing and colourful spectacles, from whales to tropical reefs, the molecular age has led us to a deeper understanding of the diversity and activity of the microorganisms that have a profound influence on our climate. Up until the late 1970s the smallest and most abundant phytoplankton in the oceans had remained undiscovered. These organisms have since been characterised as Synechococcus and Prochlorococcus which are responsible for 2/3 of all marine CO2 fixation. For more than a decade we have been exploring the molecular ecology, physiology, and genomes of these prokaryotic primary producers. Molecular approaches have led to an understanding that genome diversity and plasticity underpin their global distribution and lead us to a pathway from genes, the fundamental units of selection, to a better understanding of the activity of microorganisms that drive geochemical cycles.

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