PostDoctoral Research Fellowship
The biota of the world's seafloor is fueled by bursts of seasonal primary production. For food-limited sediment communities to persist, a balance must exist between metazoan consumption of and competition with bacteria, a balance which likely changes through the seasons. Polar marine ecosystems are ideal places to study such complex interactions due to stark seasonal shifts between heterotrophic and autotrophic communities, and temperatures that may limit microbial processing of organic matter. The research will test the following hypotheses: 1) heterotrophic bacteria compete with macrofauna for food; 2) as phytoplankton populations decline macrofauna increasingly consume microbial biomass to sustain their populations; and 3) in the absence of seasonal photosynthetic inputs, macrofaunal biodiversity will decrease unless supplied with microbially derived nutrition. Observational and empirical studies will test these hypotheses at McMurdo Station, Antarctica, where a high-abundance macro-infaunal community is adapted to this boom-and-bust cycle of productivity. The investigator will mentor undergraduates from a predominantly minority-serving institution, in the fields of invertebrate taxonomy and biogeochemistry. The general public and young scientists will be engaged through lectures at local K-12 venues and launch of an interactive website. The results will better inform scientists and managers about the effects of climate change on polar ecosystems and the mechanisms of changing productivity patterns on global biodiversity.
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