The PI's request funding to develop BIOME, a Bio-Robotic Infrastructure for Oceanic Microbial Ecology. Coastal ecosystems are central to global biogeochemical cycles despite their relatively small size; therefore, biological oceanography has focused on understanding microbial bloom dynamics on continental shelves. Unfortunately, our concepts of how a diverse bacterial community transitions between seasons remain incomplete because of our inability to sample on the appropriate time and spaces scales to resolve the processes influencing the microbiota. In order to address this limitation, we are proposing a build a biological sampler compatible with the Slocum Glider. What is missing is a component capable of collecting and returning intact biomass to the laboratory for molecular ecology studies to delineate the mechanisms driving bacterial evolution in the sea. this project will provide a platform to define the metabolic and genomic properties and mechanisms responsible for microbial growth, adaptation, and survival in the oceanic environment. The BIOME research will address fundamental questions in marine ecology and elucidate the mechanisms supporting the diversity of microorganisms in the ocean.
The potential broad impacts of this proposal are greater than average because the device being designed has potential to be deployed widely if it is successful and would lead to more accurate models of ocean microbial community structure and activity. The PIs propose to develop a K-12 lesson plan about bacteria in the Mid-Atlantic Bight with the help of an education outreach specialist associated with the Mid Atlantic Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence, and have included this aspect of the project in the budget. There is a plan for disseminating the lessons to K-12 teachers through a variety of on-line and summer teacher training programs, to the public through lectures at local library, and to kids through the Rutgers 4-H after school programs. The PIs also intend (though don't lay out any specific plan) to include underrepresented ethnic groups in summer research through the RISE @ Rutgers program.