Microbial interactions in aquatic environments to be investigated

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By Milthon Lujan

UK.- Microbes in aquatic environments influence the chemistry of these environments and the atmosphere. Currently we know that these influences result from interactions among different types of microbes, but we do not understand how these microbial interactions form in the first place.

The interactions among microbes and the different chemical conversions that they enable at micro scales also result in spatially structured materials at the macro scales such as mineral granules or mats.

The formation of microbial interactions and how they lead to spatial organisations in aquatic environments will now be investigated by Warwick researcher Professor Orkun Soyer from the School of Life Sciences. Prof. Soyer is awarded approximately £1.5m from The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation as part of the Symbiosis in Aquatic Systems Initiative investigator program. 

Professor Soyer will specifically look at how metabolic secretions are initiated and what role they play in creating a spatially organized microbial systems. He will also investigate how the metabolism-microenvironment interplay at the level of few cells leads to further spatial organisation at the level of a microbial community and determine its stability.

Furthermore he will investigate if such cell organisation facilitates further evolution by using an integrated research agenda comprising of both experiments, and modelling to develop a predictive understanding of why microbial cells excrete metabolites, how those excretions change cellular microenvironment, and how those changes in turn affect the original cells, so to lead to the formation of stable metabolic interactions.

Professor Orkun Soyer, from the School of Life Sciences at the University of Warwick comments: “I am incredibly excited about this grant from The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation as part of the Symbiosis in Aquatic Systems Initiative investigator program. This long-term funding will allow us to undertake blue skies research on how microbes in aquatic environments interact to influence their environment at both micro- and macro-scales.

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“Such a focus on a fundamental aspect of environmental microbiology would have not been possible without this generous, long-term support from the Foundation. I hope that our research will allow a better understanding of microbial interactions in the ocean and water ways and will help enable further research through development of new tools and methods.”

Professor Soyer is one of fifteen scientists to be awarded am investigator award as part of the Betty and Gordon Moore Symbiosis in Aquatic Systems Initiative program. The vibrant international cohort will receive five years of unrestricted support to pursue innovative, risky research that has high potential for significant conceptual and methodological advances in aquatic symbiosis.

The collective research is expected to move this research field towards a more comprehensive understanding of the origins, evolution, physiology, ecology and natural history of aquatic organisms living in close physical association.

Sara Bender, Ph.D., program officer of the Symbiosis in Aquatic Systems Initiative comments: “The investigator awards will serve as a flagship for the Symbiosis in Aquatic Systems Initiative and are expected to push the frontier of aquatic symbiosis research by providing stable and ample support for brilliant scientists who will take risks that drive creative work.”

Source: University of Warwick

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