Eric Collins XC Seminar


In this seminar, Dr. Collins introduced results from the recent Arctic expedition by discussing different properties of Oceans. Mainly focusing on the movement of Arctic waters, sea ice and chemical properties. He entertained the idea that sea ice is very diverse and that water samples (including what microbes can found in water samples) are heavily dependent on the chemical properties of ice. There was also a description of the different layers of water and how the layers originated. Comparisons of how the flow of water looked like in the past and what it looks like now was mentioned. One example is how oceans used to be freshwater and why that impacts the modern Arctic. There was also an exploration of how density, temperature, salinity and nutrient density are related in seawater.

The discussion of microbes in seawater began with a query about how distinct layers of microbes in the ocean came to be and how they are correlated with water movements. Dr. Collins also brought up the idea that melting ice could cause microbial extinctions. Microbes are also essential for nutrient cycling in the Arctic. Primarily, the most conducive location for microbial growth is the boundary between the warm waters and cold winter waters since it is the area that allows for the simplest nutrient access. Results showed there are significant differences in what microbes were found in different regions of seawater. Dr. Collins finished his seminar with another project he has been working on-mapping how microbes differ by only 10 miles in seawater. He said that there have been issues with this project since sequencing produces mass amounts of data but he created a cool globe-like map for representation.


The seminar was concentrated on ideas about oceanography and I thought it was interesting to learn about this topic as it is not something I have spent much time considering before. I liked that Dr. Collins tied in a lot of the chemical basis of why ocean water moves the way it does. I also enjoyed that he made an effort to include interesting facts and why his seminar is relevant. In class we have talked extensively about ubiquity of microbes. The diversity of microbes in sea ice is an example of that ubiquity. There is also the idea that conditions more conducive to certain microbes selects for those microbes, which is something that we have talked about in class. For example, temperature and salinity surely impact what kinds of microbes can inhabit a region.

This seminar has piqued my interest in the microbes of  sea ice. The idea was not discussed in depth and I would like to know more details about it. For example, what specific biochemistry allows microbes to exist in the conditions? Also, how relevant is the microbial extinction that Dr. Collins mentioned?

Extra Credit: Eric Collins

Eric Collins’ seminar was on microbial communities in the arctic. His project included mapping the uncharted diversity of arctic marine microbes. In addition to the different regions of ice, microbes were also charted by what layer of ice they were found in. Microbes in ice also vary in the age of ice and with the arctic losing old ice, microbes may be going extinct.

This seminar was especially related to lecture when we learned that microbes choose their community. Microbes in this environment chose the region, layer, and age of ice. Additionally, his research backs up the lecture that there are certain bacteria for certain temperatures and these are certainly thermophilic bacteria.

Whenever there is an organism going extinct, my first thought is always what the impact will be in its community. Since we have an understanding of the importance of microbes, it makes me curious as to what can change in the arctic with old ice microbes going extinct.

Eric Collins Seminar

  1. Different oceanic geographical features create different kinds of marine arctic environments and different kinds of ice. Ice flow and currents also affect the differentiation of these ecosystems. Eric Collins collected different Microbial samples in order to study what kind of microbes grow in these diverse marine environments. He wanted to analyze the microbial content of the samples and determine whether or not the microbes growing in a specific area were due to changes in water salinity, temperature, other factors. Maps can be created from studying these samples.  Eventually melting ice will deposit more fresh water into the arctic ocean. This combined with warming could cause extinctions among microbes. Different temperatures of water have different microbial populations, as evidenced by 16sRNA. Warmer water is causing phytoplankton blooms in the spring. These blooms are important to the arctic biosphere.
  2. I really like the idea of making a comprehensive map of all of the world’s microbial communities. As Collins stated, it could help to classify new kinds of microbes. In lecture, we learned how different temperatures can affect microbes. Extremophiles living in colder temperatures need unsaturated fatty acids in their membranes in order to maintain their membrane fluidity, while microbes living in warmer waters don’t need this. Microbes that live in frozen freshwater glaciers and glacier flows also don’t need to deal with high levels of salinity like the microbes in the atlantic ocean. Collins discussed microbial extinction with the rise of global warming. I wonder how these extinctions will affect the ecosystems the microbes that go extinct are part of.

Extra Credit: Eric Collins

Major Points:

Eric Collins presented a seminar on some of the specific aspects of oceanography that he studies: the flow of water and ice through the Arctic Ocean and how the structure of life in the Arctic Ocean is affected by the different characteristics of this flow. He noted that the presence of ice in sea water affects the chemical composition of the water. As ice freezes, it releases salts into the water, which then play a role in forming layers within the Arctic seawater possessing different gradients of both salinity and temperature; a side effect of this process is that water currents which circulate through the arctic emerge both colder and fresher than before as they now contain sea ice. Changes in the salinity of seawater as well as the formation of different gradients of salinity and temperature in the ocean are all aspects which impact microbe survivability and the ways in which microbes interact with each other and their environment. He also mentioned that the input of freshwater into the arctic from multiple ocean currents, while not a significant volume compared to that of the total volume of water which regularly circulates through the Arctic, plays an important role in the microbiological structure of the Arctic Ocean.

Relation to Microbiology and Questions:

Currently, much of the sea ice in the arctic is very young: less than 10 years old. The melting of arctic ice changes the composition of the ice and water in the Arctic, allows light to reach further into the sea water, precipitates an earlier spring in the region, contributes to an increased abundance of plankton, and results in less ice for animals, such as polar bears, to live on. These changes also affect the habitats in which microbes in this region live. Microbe content in water and ice differs geographically as well as between the different layers of water and different types of ice found in the Arctic. There are differences between microbes found in sea water, young sea ice, and old sea ice; such differences indicate that loss of or changes to the composition and abundance of these habitats would likely result in extinction for those microbes which require the specific conditions provided by each type of environment. Definite biogeography and special patterns also exist in terms of microbe presence in the water currents and sources which contribute to water flow through the Arctic Ocean.

Some questions which this lecture brought to mind are: can the various species of microbes found in the Arctic Ocean all be traced back to the incoming currents? Are there some microbes which are only found in the Arctic Ocean? Eric Collins also mentions how different microbes are found within the different temperature and salinity layers within Arctic seawater as well as in old and young sea ice in the Arctic regions. Does this differentiation based upon salinity and temperature also apply to the many viruses which live in the ocean? I am very curious about this last question in particular after learning in lecture that there are so many viruses in the ocean!

Eric Collins Extra Credit

Eric Collins used the first 20 minutes or so to discuss the oceanography associated with the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic regions. The Atlantic salinity is more highly concentrated than that of the Pacific Ocean and it becomes more dilute as it moves across the Baltic Sea. He states that different salinity concentrations correlate to different micro biomes. He was also talking about how 30 to 50 million years ago the Arctic was basically a fresh water pond.  Under early spring ice, phytoplankton have been known to move in large groups across the Arctic.
He also discusses how certain microbes that are found in older sea ice may potentially go extinct over the next hundred or so years in response to glacial melt off.   He was also talking about sediment deposits and microbe abundance in certain locations such as the Chukchee Sea.

I found the first 20 minutes to be rather dull talking about the depth and width of the oceans. However, in the end he was able to relate the background information with the remainder of his research on arctic microbes. What I found interesting in the beginning portion of the presentation was the fact that salinity is higher in the Atlantic and it becomes less concentrated as it moves across the arctic and pacific ocean regions. Microbial diversity is always intriguing because its so easy to underestimate their abundance and diversity.


Eric Collins extra credit

Eric Collins discussed aquatic samples that were gathered near artic ice and the micro biome that was within it. He discussed the origins of the water and the chemicals in the artic ocean, what land masses they melted from, what current brought the water there and took water away. Collings discussed the affect that melted sea ice has a chemical finerprint on the water it melts into, and how that relates to the micro biome in the artic. He also examined the ways that artic climate change could cause microbial extinctions.


He mentioned that the climate change in artic oceans could cause microbial extinctions that couldn’t/wouldn’t happen in other biomes. This made me think about a quote we heard in lecture, about how microbes are everywhere the environment selects. I think that this quote doesn’t mean that every species will be present everywhere just that if it could be there it would be. Back to the melting artic, any microbe that requires a saprophytic environment, and or the specific chemical composition of water associated with melted sea ice will loose its niche if the ice melted. These microbes have no where to go, they are already at an extreme environment, that simply wont exist in that future. Microbes in other environments will be able to migrate across latitudes and altitudes, but not these microbes, they wont have anywhere to be. It’s a bit sad to think about.


Morgen Southwood

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?

Extra Credit: Eric Collins

Eric Collins’ seminar primarily focused on the oceanography of the Arctic Ocean and the microbial diversity that is present in this marine environment. He discusses the variation present in microbial communities at various levels of seawater. For instance, the deep-water layer may exhibit different microbial diversity when compared to the Atlantic layer. His research is aimed at determining how those differences came about and how much of that variation is a due to the water that it came from.

Collins’ discusses potential factors that contribute to diversity of marine environments. For instance, he touches on the fact that ice formation and melting can influence microbial communities because they tend to change overtime due to changes in flow of water and melting of glaciers. He discusses how this has had a negative impact on the environment and organisms that are present in this environment due to the rapid melting of ice during the spring months.

Along with variation in water flow and ice formation, Collins’ also discusses how the nutrient and salt concentrations can have an impact on the microbes present. For instance, he mentions how the Atlantic water is much saltier when compared to the water of the pacific. Also, warm, traveling water is very low in nutrient concentrations when compared to deep, arctic water.

I really appreciated how Collin’s incorporated a little oceanography in his presentation to give his audience a more in depth background into the sites that his data was collected. It was rather interesting to further learn about all the potential causes of marine microbial diversity. One question that I considered during this presentation is  whether or not there is  anyway to determine the rate at which the ice is melting and if there is any current research being conducted that analyzes possible factors that could limit the rate at which the melting is occurring?

Extra Credit: Eric Collins

In Eric Collins seminar, he presented some very interesting results from studies done in Arctic marine environments. He presented a lot of interesting and unknown (to me) facts about the Arctic ice and how the global environment is affecting it. From the topic of ice, Collins moved into the topic of microbial diversity in arctic environments. He talked about how different techniques were used in order to investigate the diversity and function of Arctic bacteria, archaea, viruses, fungi, etc. and how this was important for the several ongoing projects that are being conducted in the Arctic, which in turn will be used to build a conceptual model of diversity flux.

I think this was a very interesting seminar, and I really liked how he presented the information with the help of graphs and figures to better the understanding of what he was talking about. In class, we have talked about different factors that affect microbial growth (temperature, nutrient availability, etc.), which Collins also mentions about in his seminar.

Because the ice in the Artic is melting so quickly lots of microbial diversity is lost, is there any way of measuring this loss?

Eric Collins Extra Credit

In Eric Collins seminar he talks about past and current trends of the Arctic Ocean, and possible future trends of its movement, geography, and microbial environment. The water that enters and exits the arctic ocean happens by multiple currents coming through the Bering straight, Greenland and various locations, all carrying fresh & salty water of varying temperatures and nutrients. He talks about the layers of the water that is created by ice, movement of the water at different depths, and location of the water. Each layer also holds slightly different environments and microbial worlds based on from where the water came from and how long it has been circulating in the ocean, and how much ice it may have been exposed to. He talks about the age of ice and how quickly it has been melting. The sudden change in the water and ice causes numerous negative effects in biology when it comes to spring, polar bear environments, and the lifespan of certain microbes that may only be found in the old sea ice. Eric Collins mentions that he is interested in finding out if there are any microbes that may be specific to the sea ice in the arctic, and how high the possibility of them becoming extinct may be due to the ice melting.

The information that Eric Collins shares with us in his seminar is very interesting. He gives some “fun facts” about the ocean, like how it used to be all fresh water and that it eventually sank and became oil; which is a little historical biology lesson about Alaska. The evidence of climate change due to melting sea ice is constantly talked about, and Collins’s evidence, graphs, and animations are great tools to help visually show people the evidence. We have talked about extremophiles in class and how important it is for each kind of organism to live in its proper environment  to survive. Question: Eric says that the ice is melting at a quicker rate than people are able to observe and analyze, he says that because of this melting there is a possibility of losing some of microbes; is the ice melting too fast for any type of evolutionary change to happen with these microbes?