Current research projects (2019-2024)
Dynamic microbial populations in Canada’s Arctic Ocean are poised to respond to environemental change
The Arctic Ocean is warming at twice the rate of other marine ecosystems. Marine microbiomes drive primary productivity and sustain Arctic food webs, are an important indicator of ecosystem health and function, and provide early indications of environmental change. Two high-impact papers on the pan-Canadian Arctic marine microbiome, and its response to climate change and oil spills, are planned. One manuscript will leverage a massive dataset (600 16S rRNA gene amplicon libraries; 110 metagenomic libraries; in total 23 terabytes of biological information) that our team has amassed over the past decade with the help of three ArcticNet projects. Samples collected onboard CCGS Amundsen from over 80 locations spanning 8 years provide essential baseline information. This is comparable to similar major initiatives such as Tara Oceans. Results will characterize and quantify the Arctic marine microbiome in space and time, integrating results with other ArcticNet oceanographic data. This will be the first-ever large-scale genomic assessment of Canada’s Arctic marine ecosystem. Microorganisms are also nature’s ‘first responders’ to environmental perturbations. A second manuscript on hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria and their response to oil in this sensitive ecosystem will showcase these uniquely cold-adapted bacteria. This is of great interest to the scientific community, policymakers and decision-makers as rapid changes in Arctic ecosystems and accelerating industrial activity pose a greater risk of accidental spills. Highlighting the response of the Arctic marine microbiome to oil spills and identifying unique Arctic-specific genes and genomes will guide mitigation efforts in different high-latitude spill scenarios.