Microbes, viruses, and carbon in the subseafloor at Axial Seamount

Investigating microbial ecosystems that thrive at a deep-sea volcano to model the rates of their activities, their influence on carbon flow beneath the seafloor, and how that influence is altered by viral infection.

Overview

Our research program investigates deep-sea microbial ecosystems with an emphasis on using crustal fluids to interrogate the rocky subseafloor habitat. The potential for production of new biomass within the seafloor is rarely considered in traditional oceanographic paradigms of carbon cycling or microbial food webs due to how little we know about this under-explored and potentially ubiquitous microbial habitat. The functional consequences of an extensive population of microbes living in the subseafloor remains unknown, as does our understanding of how these organisms interact with one another and influence the biogeochemistry of the oceans.

We are investigating autotrophy in the rocky subseafloor using molecular biological, cultivation, and geochemical techniques at Axial Seamount, an active submarine volcano that is part of the NSF OOI seafloor cabled observatory. The project addresses the functional roles of various autotrophic subseafloor microbial community members across temperature and metabolism classifications; their relationships with each other, with viruses, and with other sources of syntrophic metabolic energy; and their collective impact on carbon biogeochemistry as dictated by environmental gradients in temperature and geochemistry. Our comprehensive suite of land-based, shipboard, and in situ analyses will yield cross-disciplinary advances in our understanding of the microbial ecology and geochemistry of carbon cycling in the subseafloor biosphere at mid-ocean ridges.

Team Members

PIs:
Lisa Zeigler Allen, JCVI
David Butterfield, University of Washington
Jim Holden, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Julie Huber, MBL
Giora Proskurowski, University of Washington
Joe Vallino, MBL

PostDocs & Graduate Students:
Chris Algar, MBL
Caroline Fortunato, MBL
Benjamin Larson, University of Washington
Lucy Stewart, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Begum Topcuoglu, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Photo Credit: Carola Buchner

Photo Credit: Julie Huber