Lifestyles of Marine Microbes

Photo: Kirt Edblom

FLOATING IN THE SEAS are zillions of microscopic creatures called “protists,” a catchall term for a group of algae-eating organisms that are neither animal, plant or fungus. As ubiquitous as they are, scientists don’t yet fully grasp their role in the marine carbon cycle, according to OSU researcher Stephen Giovannoni. The microbes’ biology, he says, “comprises diverse lifestyles that shape the carbon cycle through elaborate but poorly appreciated food-web connections.” How the microbes will respond to ongoing climate change is uncertain at the moment — a question that needs urgent study, Giovannoni asserts.