Extra Credit: Eric Collins Seminar

Eric Collins’ lecture titled “Mapping the Uncharted Diversity of Arctic Marine Microbes” discussed the melting ice of the Arctic Ocean, and how that contributes to the diversity of microorganisms in that region. Collins suggested in his seminar that the flow of water through the Arctic is key for understanding its distinctive microbial life.

One-third of the total “freshness” going to the Arctic Ocean comes from the Bering Straight; this freshwater is really rich in nutrients. “Deepwater”, unique to the Arctic, is created because salt increases the density of seawater. A goal of Collins’ research was to measure microbial diversity in these different ocean layers, as well as infer as to the origin of differences in the organisms of each layer. 16S ribosomal diversity showed variations between different water temperatures and densities. It is very interesting to see an example of microbial diversity in a somewhat extreme environment.

This seminar was interesting, especially when approached with the information we learned in Eric Collins’ guest lecture about astrobiology. The fact that habitat location leads to differences in the microbes that thrive there supports the idea that certain microbes function best in extreme environments, and have adapted as needed to live there. Whose to say this isn’t the same for space? I think it would be interesting if Collins’ seminar had addressed how his research applied to Astrobiology, as this is such a cool subject. A question I had during this presentation was how this research team was planning on using this data; how will this knowledge of Arctic Microbiology be used?