The Oceanic Microbial Observatory is a joint project between UCSB (Carlson Lab) and Oregon State University (Steve Giovannoni's Lab) that is staged out of the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Science (BIOS). This project has been on-going since 1996 and is designed to assess the role of microbes in shaping the biogeochemical patterns observed in the northwestern Sargasso Sea. This project benefits greatly from its interaction with the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS) which provides a sample stream to the microbial observatory and a rich environmental data set used to help interpret our findings.
Microorganisms in the ocean surface layer play an integral role in the exchange of carbon between the atmosphere and the ocean. The global dissolved organic carbon (DOC) pool is estimated to be approximately 662 Pg C, a value comparable to the mass of inorganic C in the atmosphere. Small perturbations in the metabolism of DOC by microorganisms could strongly impact the balance between oceanic and atmospheric carbon dioxide. Thus, the microbial processes that determine DOC production, consumption and distribution in the oceans are important to the global carbon cycle. We are particularly interested in the interaction between specific microbial lineages with DOC. We integrate traditional microbial, ecological and oceanographic approaches with cutting edge molecular, genomic and proteomic approaches to gain insight while attempting to link microbial community structure with ocean biogeochemistry.