October 20, 2014

MBL Talk on the Ocean “Plastisphere” at Falmouth Public Library, February 13

Contact: Susan Joslin
508-289-7281; sjoslin@mbl.edu

L_AmaralZettler1MBL, WOODS HOLE, MA—The third presentation of the Marine Biological Laboratory’s (MBL) “Science Before Supper” series will be held on February 13, 2014 at the Falmouth Public Library. Linda Amaral-Zettler, Associate Scientist in the MBL’s Josephine Bay Paul Center will present a talk titled “Welcome to the Plastisphere: the New World of Microbes Living on Ocean Plastic.” Amaral Zettler will discuss her work, which is uncovering a diverse multitude of microbes inhabiting plastic marine debris floating on the ocean.

The short talk will be held at 5:00 PM in the library’s Hermann Foundation Meeting Room, 300 Main Street, Falmouth and will be followed by a time for questions and answers. Co-sponsored by the MBL Associates and the Falmouth Public Library, the “Science Before Supper” talks by MBL scientists are specifically designed for “non-scientists” and are free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.The amount of plastic debris accumulating in the open ocean has doubled in 40 years. Most debris are confetti-sized pieces called microplastics. Using a combination of high-powered microscopy and DNA sequencing, Amaral-Zettler and her colleagues have found a diverse array of microscopic organisms living on plastic marine debris, and they are distinct from the “natural” community in the surrounding waters or on floating seaweeds.Scientists have dubbed the human-made flotilla of microbial communities the Plastisphere, a novel ecological habitat. Along with colleagues from the Sea Education Association and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Amaral-Zettler analyzed the bacteria associated with marine plastic debris collected from several locations in the North Atlantic Ocean. She and her colleagues say the Plastisphere raises a host of questions including how it will change environmental conditions for marine microbes and larger marine organisms, and impact the overall ocean ecosystem.

Linda Amaral-Zettler is a microbial ecologist and a biological oceanographer by training. Research in her laboratory investigates the relationships between microbes and the environment, focusing on mechanisms that determine microbial diversity, distribution, survival, and impact on local and global processes. As part of the Woods Hole Center for Oceans and Human Health, her laboratory employs next generation sequencing techniques to understand the presence and persistence of pathogens and harmful algal blooming species in the natural and man-made environment, and pathogen pollution along trade routes via the aquarium fish pet trade. Amaral-Zettler’s research spans the fields of microbial ecology, molecular ecology, molecular evolution, cell-physiology, phylogenetics, comparative molecular biology and biogeography.

The remaining talk for this season will be held on March 13, 2014.  Speaker and topic is to be announced.

For more information about the Science Before Supper series, contact the MBL Communications Office at (508) 289-7423; comm@mbl.edu or the Falmouth Library at (508) 457-2555.

—###—
 
The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is dedicated to scientific discovery and improving the human condition through research and education in biology, biomedicine, and environmental science. Founded in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in 1888, the MBL is a private, nonprofit institution and an affiliate of the University of Chicago.
 
The MBL Associates are a group of individuals and businesses that support the scientific mission of the MBL through their gifts to the Annual Fund. The Associates sponsor educational and research programs for the MBL and raise funds for special projects. In addition, they operate the MBL Gift Shop, located on Water Street in Woods Hole, the profits from which support scientific fellowships.