Interactions between phytoplankton and bacteria are arguably the most important interspecies interaction in the oceans. Phytoplankton, including microalgae (e.g., diatoms and dinoflagellates) and cyanobacteria, are responsible for nearly half of photosynthesis and carbon fixation on Earth, making them major drivers of global carbon fluxes. Marine bacteria consume a significant fraction of phytoplankton-derived organic matter and drive the earth’s major biogeochemical cycles. Interactions between phytoplankton and bacteria are believed to be ubiquitous, yet our knowledge of these interactions and their mechanisms are rudimentary. Our lab strives to underline the importance of phytoplankton-bacteria interactions by studying the associations, signaling and nutrient cycling between these groups using laboratory model systems and field studies.
We are particularly interested in a group of phytoplankton called the diatoms, which are responsible for ~40% of marine primary productivity. Our lab focuses on developing diatom-bacteria model systems by isolating diatoms from the Arabian Gulf along with their microbial consortia, characterizing the microbial consortia with
these diatoms and using genomics, transcriptomics and metabolomics to understand how these organisms interact. Recently, our interests is focusing on the interactions of diatom species with their whole microbiome of bacteria and how these interactions shape the marine ecosystem.