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Investigating Microbial Lifestyles

Pilot Funding update

Dr. Emil Ruff is an assistant scientist at Woods Hole's Marine Biological Laboratory. His interests center on the theme of microbial ecophysiology and community functions in estuaries, soils and the seafloor. He has received funding from the Microbiome Center to investigate two projects: Nematostella vectensis as a model for monitoring the effect of environmental pollution on cnidarians and their microbiome AND Microbial nitrogen metabolism in arctic soils. These two very different projects neatly reflect the importance of microbial metabolisms for all living systems, from sea anemones to the Alaskan tundra. 

In the Nematostella project the team investigates tentacle regeneration of the sea anemone during exposure to several pollutants that are common in estuarine ecosystems. The researchers want to find out whether the animal’s microbiome has a positive effect on the tentacle regeneration of its host, potentially by attenuating the toxic effects of the pollutants.

In the project on arctic soils the team is interested in microbial communities that are involved in nitrogen cycling. Nitrogen is an essential nutrient in all ecosystems. With a new combination of methods the researchers aim to understand nitrogen turnover at high resolution. Insights that could be used to better predict the effects of global warming on arctic ecosystems.