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New genetic tools to dig into marine microorganisms

PNNL developing new methods to understand tiny marine life that's key to global cycles

News Release

November 13, 2015 Share This!

  • PNNL will develop new tools to study marine microorganisms such as these.
    Photo courtesy of NOAA.

  • PNNL microbiologist George Bonheyo has been awarded a grant to develop tools to study tiny marine organisms that play key roles in global carbon and nutrient cycling.

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SEQUIM, Wash. — Tiny marine organisms that play key roles in global carbon and nutrient cycling will be better understood thanks to new genetic tools being developed at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory through a new grant.

PNNL microbiologist George Bonheyo is among more than 100 researchers receiving a total of $8 million in grants from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation's Marine Microbiology Initiative. Bonheyo's $170,000 grant is being administered by Washington State University, where he has a joint appointment. The grant will be used to hire and support a WSU post-doctoral researcher at PNNL's Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sequim, Washington.

Bonheyo will lead a team that will create new genetic tools to disrupt microbial gene activity, which will enable them to understand how tiny organisms called microeukaryotes function in marine ecosystems. These organisms are central to many global cycles and, if such cycles are imbalanced, they could have major implications for ocean acidification, food webs and climate change.

"Scientist who want to study carbon and nutrient cycling need tools to turn genes on or off in key species during laboratory studies," said Bonheyo. "However, systems for genetic manipulation have not been worked out for most microscopic organisms, particularly in the marine environment."

More information is available in the Moore Foundation news release and an announcement from Washington State University.


Tags: Environment, Fundamental Science, Marine Research, Biology, Microbiology

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