The oxygen in every second breath we take is produced by microbes in our oceans; they are thought to produce about 50 percent of the oxygen in the earth's atmosphere. Yet, we know surprisingly little about these tiny organisms. While we are discovering answers to long-standing questions and uncovering important new questions about the roles that marine microorganisms play at the base of the ocean’s food chain, much more needs to be learned about what these organisms do and how they do it—including how they 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 genetic diversity, composition and function; their ecological role in the oceans; and their contribution to ocean health and productivity. Current focus of the initiative is to advance our understanding of marine microbial communities by enabling research to uncover the principles that govern the interactions among microbes as well as those that govern microbially-mediated nutrient flow. To answer questions about the roles that marine microorganisms play at the base of the ocean’s food chain, 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 and technology.