ANT LIA - Viral Ecogenomics of the Southern Ocean: Unifying Omics and Ecological Networks to Advance our Understanding of Antarctic Microbial Ecosystem Function
Part 1: Non-technical description: It is well known that the Southern Ocean plays an important role in global carbon cycling and also receives a disproportionately large influence of climate change. The role of marine viruses on ocean productivity is largely understudied, especially in this global region. This team proposes to use combination of genomics, flow cytometry, and network modeling to test the hypothesis that viral biogeography, infection networks, and viral impacts on microbial metabolism can explain variations in net community production (NCP) and carbon cycling in the Southern Ocean. The project includes the training of a postdoctoral scholar, graduate students and undergraduate students. It also includes the development of a new Polar Sci ReachOut program in partnership with the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History especially targeted to middle-school students and teachers and the general public. The team will also produce a Science for Tomorrow (SFT) program for use in middle schools in metro-Detroit communities and lead a summer Research Experience for Teachers (RET) fellows. Part 2: Technical description: The study will leverage hundreds of existing samples collected for microbes and viruses from the Antarctic Circumpolar Expedition (ACE). These samples provide the first contiguous survey of viral diversity and microbial communities around Antarctica. Viral networks are being studied in the context of biogeochemical data to model community networks and predict net community production (NCP), which will provide a way to evaluate the role of viruses in Southern Ocean carbon cycling. Using cutting edge molecular and flow cytometry approaches, this project addresses the following questions: 1) How/why are Southern Ocean viral populations distributed across environmental gradients? 2a) Do viruses interfere with "keystone" metabolic pathways and biogeochemical processes of microbial communities in the Southern Ocean? 2b) Does nutrient availability or other environmental variables drive changes in virus-microbe infection networks in the Southern Ocean? Results will be used to develop and evaluate generative models of NCP predictions that incorporate the importance of viral traits and virus-host interactions. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.
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