Science Mission

Our project is broadly focused on understanding the biotic and abiotic factors that influence algal host-virus interactions and the implications these interactions have on nutrient biogeochemistry, microzooplankton grazing, and the vertical structuring of phytoplankton communities. We have been addressing these questions on a variety of fronts primarily using the coccolithophore, Emiliania huxleyi and its associated Coccolithoviruses (EhVs). The Norwegian National Mesocosm Centre at the Espegrend Marine Biological Station is an ideal location to extend our observations to naturally occurring algal hosts and viruses and rigorously study these interactions at high resolution, in a controlled setting. We specifically aim to test hypotheses regarding:

  1. The role of light in structuring infection in the mixed layer
  2. The relative impact, and possible interactions, of viral infection and microzooplankton grazing on E. huxleyi
  3.  The role of nutrient stress on E. huxleyi susceptibility to EhV infection,
  4. The interplay between calcification and EhV infection
  5. The impact of EhV infection on carbon flux

We propose to conduct mesocosm experiments over a three-week period in the Spring of 2017. Given our proposed work targets E. huxleyi populations, we will time our mesocosm work to coincide with historical patterns of elevated E. huxleyi abundance in the surrounding fjords. We plan to set up twelve experimental enclosures (8m deep, 2 m wide) made of transparent polyethylene bags, mounted on floating frames and moored to a raft and using source water from the surrounding fjord. Incubations will be performed in triplicate with treatments consisting of a variety of nutrient amendments and light irradiance levels. We will use a small boat for daily access to the floating mesocosms for sample collection. Other small scale experiments will be conducted on  a small flowing seawater outdoor tank on land. We will also be performing scientific diving activities.

This project stems largely from a collective collaboration of researchers from Rutgers University, the University of Georgia, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is supported by a several awards from NSF, NASA, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. It also involves other collaborative interactions between investigators at Haverford College, the Institut Biologie Physico Cheme (Paris, France), and The California Institute of Technology. We are also excited to involve collaborative participation and interaction with close colleagues at the University of Bergen. The involves 25 participants consisting of PIs, postdocs, graduate students, research scientists, scientific support staff, and undergraduate students.

Funded Projects upon which the proposed study will leverage:
  • Collaborative Research: Elucidating algal host-virus dynamics in different nutrient regimes- mechanistic interactions and biogeochemical impact; NSF, Biological Oceanography; PI: Kay Bidle (Rutgers University) Co-PI: (Michael Follows, MIT)
  • Light-dependent regulation of coccolithophore host-virus interactions: mechanistic insights and implications for structuring infection in the surface ocean; NSF, Biological Oceanography; PI: Kim Thamatrakoln (Rutgers University) Co-PI: Kay Bidle (Rutgers University)
  • Collaborative Research: Quantifying competing loss rates of viral lysis and microzooplankton grazing on Emiliania huxleyi mortality; NSF, Biological Oceanography PI: Matthew Johnson (WHOI) Co-PIs: Elizabeth Harvey (University of Georgia), Kay Bidle (Rutgers)
  • Collaborative Research: Building a framework for the role of bacterial-derived chemical signals in mediating phytoplankton population dynamics; NSF, Biological Oceanography; PI: Elizabeth Harvey (Univ. of Georgia) Co-PIs: Kristen Whalen (Haverford College), David Rowley (Univ. of Rhode Island)
  • Investigator Award; #3789; Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation, Marine Microbiology Initiativel PI: Kay Bidle (Rutgers)