Microbes in the News #3 – A Changing Ocean (Sage Robine)

Article:  Study: Much of the surface ocean will shift in color by end of 21st century

(https://news.mit.edu/2019/study-ocean-color-change-phytoplankton-climate-0204) –> MIT News, February 4, 2019

Summary:  Researchers at MIT have developed a model that simulates how the colours of the ocean may change over the next 100 years due to climate change. Their model looks at the colours of the ocean as seen from a satellite, where green hues indicate a greater concentration of algae and phytoplankton while dark blue hues indicate a lack of significant algae growth. Their model predicted that the subtropics will turn a deeper blue colour, indicating less phytoplankton growth and therefore less life in general. Meanwhile, the poles may turn a darker shade of green from increased algae blooms due to warming temperatures. These changes in levels of algal growth mean that entire food webs could be significantly altered by the end of the century, which would have significant impacts worldwide.

Connections:  This article is a good reflection of how microbial ecology can have a big impact on our world. Changes in microbial activity in the oceans over the next century could be big enough to be seen from space! And since life in the ocean is very dependent on levels of microbial growth (microbes make up the base of most ocean food webs) these changes could have dramatic impacts on all domains of life.

Critical Analysis:  I really enjoyed reading this article. It was easy to read and seemed to summarize the MIT study really well. I am somewhat cautious about this model, because I have not seen proof of its face and predictive validity, but I am sure if I read the entire peer-reviewed paper in depth it would prove to be a fairly accurate model for ocean colour change. Overall, this article was well-written, informative, accurate and easy to understand.

Question:  If the algal growth in our oceans changes as much as it is supposed to, how can we model these impacts on ocean food webs and what would those models show us?

A2: Microbes in the News: New Species in the Ice

Article and link:  https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190115121103.htm

Published: January 15th, 2019

Scientists identify two new species of fungi in retreating Arctic glacier

Summary- This short article introduces two new fungal species which inhabit glacial ice on Ellesmere Island. The author also begins to explain how their habitat is being affected by climate change and what further research is being performed.

Connections- While we have not covered much yet, I did find it interesting that the researchers proposed the name Mrakia hoshinonis after Tamotsu Hoshino, a polar region fungi researcher from the National Institute of Advanced Science and Technology. The other species is proposed to be called Vishniacozyma ellesmerensis after the island where it was discovered. The naming process reminded me of the Epithet assignment. These microbes also live in cold environments, which means they could be categorized as psychrophiles.

Critical analysis- I found this story interesting because it shows just how much we still don’t know about microbes in general, let alone the ones that live in extreme environments. I do not think there was enough information in this story to say it is scientifically accurate or not. The author does not talk too much on how the researchers found and identified the species. Because of our lack of knowledge, it is easy to see why two new species could be found in one small area. The author went on a tangent in the article to talk about climate change. And while it had to do with further research, I felt like it stole the show from the idea of new species in glacial ice and what the implications are of the discovery. The public may not recognize all the different aspects that go into discovering a new species, and they might get caught up in the scary climate change drama.

Question- What can we learn from microbes that live in extremely cold environments?