Forging a new paradigm in marine microbial ecology

Microbes in the ocean produce half of the oxygen on the planet and remove vast amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from the atmosphere. Yet, we know surprisingly little about these microscopic organisms. As we discover answers to some long-standing puzzles about the roles that marine microorganisms play in supporting the ocean’s food webs and driving global elemental cycles, we realize that we still need to learn much more about what these organisms do and how they do it—including how they evolved and contribute to our world’s health and productivity.

The Marine Microbiology Initiative (MMI) seeks to gain a comprehensive understanding of marine microbial communities, including their ecological roles in the oceans; their diversity, functions and behaviors; and their origins and evolution. The current focus of the initiative is to advance our understanding of marine microbial communities by enabling researchers to uncover the scientific principles that govern the interactions among microbes and that govern microbially mediated nutrient flow in the sea. To answer these questions, MMI supports current or emerging leaders in the field through investigator awards, multidisciplinary team research projects, community resource projects, as well as projects to develop new instrumentation, tools, technologies and genetic approaches.

Through the efforts of many scientists from around the world, the initiative will achieve these goals by breaking interdisciplinary barriers that are currently slowing the field and by catalyzing new science through advances in methods and technology. We support research that closes gaps that currently hinder scientists from identifying and quantifying nutrient pools in the ocean, deciphering the genetic and biochemical bases of microbial metabolism, and understanding how microbes interact with one another. We support five grant portfolios:

  • Individual investigator awards for current and emerging leaders in the field
  • Multidisciplinary team research projects that support collaboration across disciplines
  • New instrumentation, tools, and technology that will enable scientists to ask new questions in ways previously not possible  
  • Community resource efforts that fund the creation and sharing of data and the development of tools, methods and infrastructure that are of broad use to the entire research community
  • Projects that accelerate development of genetic tools to enable development of experimental model systems in marine microbial ecology

We also convene scientists around topics of key importance and sponsor workshops to promote scientific exchange.

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Deciphering how the microbial engine of the ocean hums.


Marine Microbial Communities

Supporting life on land and sea, driving ocean nutrient cycles, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and making half of the planet’s oxygen. 
  • first award

    Jan 2004

  • grants to date


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